Americus continues to recover - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Americus continues to recover

By Jay Polk - bio | email

October 22, 2008

AMERICUS, GA (WALB) - Eightteen months after a killer tornado wiped out parts of Americus, the rebuilding continues.

A popular clothing store that was heavily damaged, is preparing to re-open.

WALB News 10's Jay Polk takes us to Americus to see the progress.

In early March 2007, an EF3 tornado with a path one mile wide and more than 5 miles long tore through the city of Americus. Damage was extensive to businesses.

According to Mayor Barry Blount of Americus, "i'd say approximately a hundred, maybe a few more maybe a few less, but somewhere in that neighborhood."

There was also damage to homes, where between 200 and 300 homes were damaged or destroyed. Tragically, two people lost their lives. The city's hospital and a large shopping center were both destroyed. What took years to build was gone in a matter of seconds.

Immediately, federal and state governmental agencies rushed in to help.  "We had a lot of help from FEMA and GEMA", said Blount.

Along with some private and church based charitable groups. Such as: "samaritan's Purse. It's an outreach of the Billy Graham organization."

And with that help, most of the local businesses have been able to rebuild.  Such as the CATO store in Americus, which was totally destroyed by the tornado.

In the same plaza, the Winn Dixie opened in May of this year, and some businesses have even moved into Americus after the twister.

"We've acquired some new businesses, Quizno's has opened up in that shopping center", said Blount.

But it isn't just the shops that have been rebuilt. The old Rees Park School was an abandoned building at the time of the twister. After it was destroyed, it was rebuilt and now houses several city agencies. And across the street, a park is being built as a gathering place for local residents. Here the flags fly in the breeze, a reminder of the dogged spirit of the people who live here. In Americus, Jay Polk WALB News 10.

The Cato store that was destroyed by the twister is set to re-open next week.

But the rebuilt hospital won't be fully re-opened until 2011.

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