Sylvester picks up the pieces - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Sylvester picks up the pieces

December 5, 2005

Sylvester-- It was a night of cleanup in Sylvester after a tornado roared right through downtown Monday afternoon. The twister touched down just after noon. It damaged government buildings, downtown businesses and brought down utility poles.   Downtown Sylvester took the brunt of the damage. Within hours, what could be cleaned up was cleaned. Beneath the broken glass, the rubble, and the debris, some people say they found something bigger.

Lights and decorations adorn many storefronts in downtown Sylvester. But dig a little deeper, and you'll see the early, unwanted gift of extremely high winds left some holiday decorations grounded. "I've lived here for 13 years and I've never seen stuff like this," says Peggy Boyett.

That stuff people in Sylvester encountered today was swift and surprising. "Just a little tornado touched down for about 5 or 6 blocks in the city of Sylvester here," says Sheriff Freddie Tompkins. Tompkins, who normally provides help for the city in this type of situation ironically had to shield himself from danger. He was sitting in his SUV when the tornado reached the courthouse.

"I laid down in the seat and covered my head up and it blew out all the windows on the side of my truck, and busted my windshield," says Tompkins.

The city is now picking up the pieces, filling empty spaces and clearing away the debris. Church leaders say the twister brought out the wonderful spirit of the community. "You see people walking the streets here. You see people walking by. A lot of it is just curiousity but yet at the same time if anybody can stop and help anybody or do anything you'll see them get out their cars," says First Baptist Sylvester Pastor Tom Jacobs.

And after the tornado, they found something extra when the swift wind cleared. "Come out this door and thank God that we were not hurt," says Katherine Marchman, "if you don't know the Lord, you'll get to know the Lord in a hurry."

"Buildings can be replaced, automobiles can be fixed, but lives can't be replaced and the Lord's blessed us even in a very difficult time," says Jacobs.

They're counting on that blessing to get the city back to normal. Some say the tornado was as short as 15 seconds. Others say it lasted as long as a minute. They all agree that they're thankful it wasn't worse.

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