Community picks up pieces after tornado destroys West Virginia farm

Chuck Glenn’s farm took a direct hit from an EF-2 tornado on May 8. The community rallied around the family to help pick up the pieces as they determine what their next steps are. (Submitted photo)

CHESTER, W.Va — Chuck and Cheryl Glenn are about two weeks out from the EF2-rated tornado that ripped through their houses and barns on May 8.

The sustained winds of 130 miles per hour knocked down barns and damaged houses on the 78-acre farm which has been in Chuck’s family since it was purchased in 1953. It was the first recorded tornado in Hancock County, West Virginia, according to the National Weather Service.

The memory of this violent tornado is still raw, but the couple prefers to focus on how grateful and blessed they feel.

“It was incredible. The outpouring of people has been so wonderful,” Cheryl said.


Glenn wipes some now-daily tears from his eyes as he describes the storm, and marvels at the aftermath.

“It hit at about 1:30 in the morning,” he said. My brother-in-law texted to ask if we were OK because he lost his entire roof. Within minutes, we’re hearing the roar of the wind and I decided to go check on my mom, who lived nearby in the original farmhouse.”

Chuck wasn’t prepared for the total darkness, where the only illumination was the frequent lightning. He saw that much of the house where Betty Glenn, his 93-year-old mother, was living had been destroyed.

“I thought my mother was gone,” he said through sobs that even now cannot help but escape him.

But she wasn’t gone.

She alerted her son and the sheriff of her presence. “I’m right here,” she said very matter-of-factly from a downstairs easy chair. A strong woman, she has a reputation for simply telling it like it is.

She had made her way downstairs when she heard the terrible creaking of structure as the wind strained the frame of the house. She crawled over debris and remembers being hit by some of it. She watched as a wall was picked up into the sky. Chuck said he was amazed that she was spared.

The matriarch of this farm would not be transported to the hospital to be checked without her dentures, glasses, phone and purse. Remarkably, these items were right where she said they would be, untouched by the horrific wind. She also requested two rolling pins, because she is known far and wide for feeding people and making pies.

“She’s pretty well covered with bruises and had cuts from glass on her hands, but she’s recovering and doing better,” Chuck said. Betty is staying at a relative’s home.

Cheryl walks over to Chuck, and looks lovingly at this man who has been her husband for nearly 47 years. They met when they were 16 years old and they’ve never looked back. She comforts Chuck now in a side hug; she said that reliving the account of the storm is tough, because it was surreal and they lost quite a bit.


On May 11, the first Saturday after the storm, more than 100 people came to help with cleanup. Debris that had carpeted the grazing fields was moved into large piles. If any memories were found, they were quickly saved for the family.

“We appreciated everything they did so much,” Chuck laughed. “It was funny because they’d keep bringing us keys they found and I’d just have to look at them and say, thank you — but I’ve got no doors!”

He said that the students from Oak Glen High School in Cumberland were just terrific workers. For hours, they worked to groom the pastures and pile the debris.

“And the Red Cross, the three Hancock County commissioners, the Emergency Management people — all of them asking us how they might help,” said Chuck. “It is something to see and experience.”

Cheryl said that the New Manchester Fire Department came for a number of days and kept everyone fed. “Sometimes two or three meals a day, they were that dedicated,” she added.

The morning after the tornado, the cows were just standing around, acting like nothing had happened, Chuck said. One had even given birth during the storm, and they named that heifer “Tornado.” Not one of the 47 cows had been injured in any way.

He said that the squirrels and cats on the property were apparently quite traumatized and are just now starting to show up again.

Chuck looks around, surveying the landscape as if to take it in for the first time. He said things feel like they’re in a “fluid” state. He doesn’t know how he puts one foot in front of the other every morning, but acknowledges that “You’ve got to feed the cows.”

At this point, he doesn’t know if they’ll rebuild, or when. The beef cattle that he had planned on as his main activity during his retirement years loom in front of him. He said he doesn’t have kids interested in taking over the operation, and he’s questioning how long he would be able to farm. He said one nephew helps out a bit, but is not in any way interested in making the farm his livelihood.

He’s waiting on insurance settlements and said they’re taking it day by day. Along with the tears, he said that they’ve been praying frequently.

“We’d just gotten things to where they were good,” he said, showing a photo of a recent barn renovation that had just been completed prior to the tornado’s wrath.” He wipes at his eyes with the back of his hand, his voice breaking,

More cleanup people keep arriving, and the sound of twisted metal and backhoes is a constant reminder of how far they have to go.

Cheryl said that she and her husband are extremely self-reliant and they are not delegators by nature. It is not easy for them to ask for and receive help.

“But my daughter said, ‘Mom, this is much bigger than you, and you need help,’ and I guess she’s very right.”

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