Americus tornado remembered four years later - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Americus tornado remembered four years later

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  Tornado season begins Tuesday and it brings back memories of a deadly night in Americus four years ago.

Nine people died and dozens were injured on March 1, 2007.

Close to 300 homes and businesses were damaged in Americus when an E-F three tornado struck near downtown.

Today many people in Americus paused to remember the disaster.

Everyone we talked with today in Americus remembered where they were about 9:45 the night of March 1st, when the tornado struck their town. And most said Americus has built back better and stronger than ever.

Experts say the EF 3 tornado that slammed into Americus March 1st, 2007 was one mile wide and five miles long. The tornado went right across the district near the hospital. Surveillance footage from inside the hospital showed the fury as the storm ripped the building beyond repair. The hospital's destruction became the focus of many in the community.

Brad Lafevers said "That one institution, that you go to in case of an emergency, and to see it devastated the way it was just surreal. Shocking."

Just north of the hospital one person was killed in a duplex on Oglethorpe Avenue. Now four years later Alicia Wright lives in the new apartment building on that same spot.

Wright said "You do think about it. You never get over an impact like that, so to speak a natural disaster. But you have to move on from it."

The destruction across Americus was widespread. Trees were snapped by the thousands, changing the landscape of Americus, like Rees Park.

 Wallace Mays said "You used to not be able to see. Used to have trees all over the place, and the trees were just down one after another like a lawnmower cut them down."

Mays had three trees fall on his historic home. It took 7 months to repair. Now he says he likes his yard and the park across the street better without all the trees.

 Mays said "the area now is just ten times as great as it used to be, because of it."

Most people in Americus say the long clean up was tough, but that everyone pitching in together brought their community together. Now four years later most of the clean up is over, except for the rebuilding of the new hospital. The completion of the four story, multi building complex will be the final block in the rebuilding process after the storm.

 Lafevers said "Probably most people envisioned some sort of a rebuild where we were at, the old site or something. But to come out with this type of state of the art facility is just phenomenal."

People in Americus say the destruction four years ago was like nothing they had ever dreamed could happen to their hometown. Many today said the only thing stronger than the storm, was their community spirit cleaning up together to make Americus a better place four years later.

Wallace Mays  is also a Doctor whose office in the hospital was ripped apart in the tornado. He said a man found a trophy plate from his office with his name on it ten miles north of Americus and returned it to him.

The new Phoebe Sumter Medical Center complex is expected to be completed in December.

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