Americus continues to rebuild from deadly tornado

Americus continues to rebuild from deadly tornado
Tamika Blanks house eight years after it was hit by a tornado
Tamika Blanks talks about the night the tornado hit Americus
Tamika Blanks talks about the night the tornado hit Americus

AMERICUS, GA (WALB) - It has been eight years since a south Georgia was hit with a deadly three day tornado outbreak.

Americus was one of the hardest hit areas were lives were lost and damage was extensive.

Today, there are signs left of that unforgettable night thanks to a community that pulled together and aid from around the country.

That EF-3 tornado ripped through Sumter Regional Hospital completely destroying the facility on March 1, 2007.

Southwest Georgia had been placed in a high risk area meaning a tornado outbreak was likely.

“I heard that siren sound. My phone went out. I was on my cell phone and it came straight through my bedroom window.” said storm victim Tamika Blanks.

“It did sound like a roaring freight train or jet going by." said Sumter Disaster Recover Executive Director Jody Wade.

Lives were lost with extensive damage around the city. Americus was described as a war zone.

Following 18 months of recovery and 8 years later, only a few spots are a reminder of the devastating historical event.

Thanks to Sumter Disaster Recovery, a non-profit group 75 homes were saved.

“People that came to volunteer, help, to give money, they wanted to know and be effective when they got here and they really appreciated the organization being there.” said Wade.

No one could be more grateful than Tamika Blanks. A fallen tree demolished the roof on her new home as she and her son took shelter in the bathroom. She was ready to give up.

“I was going to sell the house. I was going to let it all go. Just get an apartment forget it all. So I was able to get on the grant with FEMA in order to get my house on the program here in Americus to get my house rebuilt.” said Blanks.

In this quiet Americus neighborhood, not all tornado victims rebuilt. Blanks says those that did are closer and there's a neighborhood watch. Unlike before she now has a safety plan that includes a NOAA Weather Radio.

“Yes I do. That's when I got one right after the tornado.” said Blanks.

As for the rest of Sumter County, tornado sirens are in place and tested weekly.

That frightful March night may be a distant memory, but Wade says many lessons were learned, including one that really hit home.

“How a community can come together. It's a shame it takes things like this to make people pull together.  I guess it's a way of calling folks to do what they're suppose to do in loving their neighbor and take care of their neighbor.” said Wade.

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