Hammers and chain saws echoed yesterday, and residents cleared roads and yards as the town of Remington, Va., got back to business after Thursday's tornado wreaked $2.5 million in damage.

Electric power came back on in this Fauquier County town 60 miles southwest of Washington on Friday morning, but Main Street didn't reopen until evening, and the town's two main grocery stores are still closed for repairs.

"I cried most of Thursday night because I didn't know how I was going to pay my employees, and they've got bills to pay too," said Jane Andes, owner of Jane's Market, which lost its roof.

The tornado cut a 150-foot-wide swath through the two-square-mile town of wide lawns, Victorian homes and brick storefronts. But most of its 414 residents weren't around to see it. "Ninety-five percent {of people} that live here work somewhere else. {It's a} bedroom community of Manassas," said Town Superintendent Raymond Heflin.

Longtime residents of the 100-year-old town expressed gratitude that the storm didn't happen a week earlier, when about 1,000 visitors came to the town's autumn festival. They said the wreckage and Remington's reaction reminded them of the 1972 flooding caused by Hurricane Agnes.

"One thing about a small town, everybody works together," said Hazel West, owner of the local hairdressing shop, What's On Top.

Crews of local residents were out in force yesterday, sawing off broken tree limbs, stacking debris and beginning repairs to torn-off roofs. A two-by-four still stuck out of the roof of one Franklin Street home.

At Jane's Market, about a dozen people catalogued damaged merchandise for the insurance company and loaded it into a salvage truck.

"Really, this is kind of fun because it doesn't happen that often. I had nothing else to do," said Jeremy Drew, 13, who was tossing out ruined produce.

Stacks of soggy People magazines and melted ice cream lay on the floor because the Dumpsters were full. A stopped clock testified that the roof had blown off and severed power lines just before 1:30 p.m.

Visitors stopped by the damaged store every few minutes to give Andes a hug, offer to mind her children, and just ask if there was anything they could do.

"I don't know if I'm going to reopen as a grocery store. I'm going to have to pray on that," Andes said, idly twisting the clothing on a water-soaked doll. "I'd like to keep {part of the store open}. Some of the elderly people walk, and they're going to miss it."

Local residents and St. Luke's Episcopal Church have opened their doors to the three families left homeless.

"They're friends. We go to bingo and everywhere together," Pat Brooks said of the three adults and one child she took into her home across the Rappahannock River in Culpeper.

At the storefront that houses the town's three-person, part-time police force and the town office, Town Council member Leo McCarthy dispensed coffee and ham sandwiches to friends and neighbors who gathered to clean up the wreckage.

Several buildings down the block-long downtown area, Annabelle Edwards was worried how her grocery store customers were going to eat, because many of them buy from her on credit, and pay her back when they get cash.

"My creditors need groceries and can't get them," she said.

Residents said they expect the churches to be full this morning as local people give thanks that no one was injured.

The congregation at Remington Baptist Church has a particular reason to rejoice. The tornado had made a beeline for the church and tore up the brick sign out front, but then swirled around the church's high steeple and broke only one window.

"It was the hand of God on our community . . . that no more damage was done," said the pastor, the Rev. Joseph Anderson.