LAKE CITY — After a small tornado and high winds whipped through Lake City Tuesday night, the town was a mess of uprooted trunks and downed branches.
Fortunately, the city found just the right mix of workers and volunteers to bring the city back to it's usual picturesque self. That included middle and high school students from Lincoln High School roving the streets to help clear tree debris.
"I was kind of excited about it because I’ve been having quite a few tests lately," said Evan Huettl, an 11th-grader. "It was a nice break from the tests and the studying."
Huettl was one of dozens of teenagers missing choir to walk down seven blocks of Garden Street from the high school to the football field.
Other classes took other streets and parks to get the debris piled along the curb. City crews will collect the piles and take them to the city's compost site, said City Administrator Rob Keehn.
"The high-schoolers, the middle-schoolers and other community members are looking for ways to help out," Keehn said. Having lived through storms in other towns, he said he's never seen a level of community cooperation like he's seen in Lake City. "You don’t always get this kind of response from community members."
The National Weather Service reported a tornado traveling from the west part of Lake City toward the marina, Tuesday night, with 80 mile-per-hour winds as well.
Keehn said boats in the marina were on their sides, and damage was done to the trailers at Marina Point as well.
Greg Berge, the high school principal, said students were instructed to get little items out of yards and along boulevards. Students were happy to get a day outdoors and help their neighbors, he added.
Jobs included helping one of the trailer residents at the point whose home sustained damage. A group of middle school students took a bus out to Hok-Si-La Park to help pile up the damage to make clean up easier for city crews.
Keehn said Mayor Mark Nichols signed a three-day emergency declaration, but the city council planned to come together Thursday and pass a more binding emergency declaration in the hopes of getting some funds back from the county or the state to help pay for the efforts of city workers who have been taking care of the bigger issues like whole trees and power outages.
Then there are all those growing, multiplying piles along the curbs of branches and leaves.
"We’re hoping to be able to recoup some of those costs," Keehn said.
Sam Fitterer, another 11th-grader, who operates a lawn service with a friend, said he started cleaning client's yards Wednesday morning before school started. Helping out with his classmates is an extension of that work.
"I feel like I made an impact," Fitterer said. "It makes the yards look a whole lot better than they did yesterday."