The January 2nd storms: Six months later - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

The January 2nd storms: Six months later

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Centuries old trees lining the Avenues off Slappey Boulevard came down during the storm. (Source: WALB viewer) Centuries old trees lining the Avenues off Slappey Boulevard came down during the storm. (Source: WALB viewer)
The roof at Hamilton Relay caved in on the 50 employees inside. (Source: WALB) The roof at Hamilton Relay caved in on the 50 employees inside. (Source: WALB)
One of the structures at Camp Osborn in Worth County that was destroyed. (Source: WALB) One of the structures at Camp Osborn in Worth County that was destroyed. (Source: WALB)
The Albany Museum of Art sustained a lot of water damage. (Source: WALB) The Albany Museum of Art sustained a lot of water damage. (Source: WALB)
Tift Park, famous for its gorgeous old oak trees, lost many of them during the storm. (Source: WALB) Tift Park, famous for its gorgeous old oak trees, lost many of them during the storm. (Source: WALB)
(WALB) -

Sunday marks six months since the first set of January storms swept through southwest Georgia on that Monday night. Six tornadoes and two swaths of straight line winds brought a ferocious start to 2017. No one would get a real sense of just how much damage and destruction was done until sunrise the next day. 

MORE: Breaking down the paths of January 2nd's severe weather

THE DAMAGE

Numerous streets were closed for hours and days following the storms.  Third Avenue was full of downed trees. Centuries old trees lining the Avenues off Slappey Boulevard came down during the storm. The Rawson Circle Garden District area was one of the hardest hit areas. With crews working through fallen trees just to reach the damaged-area, several residents took it upon themselves to help out the cleanup process. 

"After everything was settled, I came out and made sure everything was alright, and started clearing paths for the utility company to get in here," said Jeremy McDonald.

Employees at Hamilton Relay in Albany realized how lucky they were that night. The building's roof caved in on the fifty workers inside. Amazingly, only two people had minor injuries. Nearly every large glass-pane window was shattered, shards were everywhere, furniture was overturned, debris scattered and window blinds were twisted.

The Albany Museum of Art sustained heavy water damage during the storm. The roof was so badly damaged that nearly two-thirds of it was blown off. AMA Director Paula Williams said the building would have to be stripped to the beams and rebuilt. 

There were two deaths resulting from Monday night's storms. A 73-year-old Turner County man died just before midnight on Monday. Officials said that the man died when the small wooden storage house he was living in was struck by severe weather around 11 p.m.

The second death was an elderly woman in Albany who died during a house fire. Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler believes her death is related to the storms.

Governor Deal declared a state of emergency for Baker, Calhoun, Dougherty, Mitchell, Turner, and Worth Counties. 

Below is aerial footage WALB News 10's Melissa Hodges showed during a Facebook Live tour of the damaged areas.

SURVIVING THE STORM

With an EF-1 tornado ripping through Worth County came one strong feeling.

"The first thought was sheer panic,” recalled Matt Hart, executive director of the South Georgia Boy Scouts of America.

Panic, because 15 boy scouts were spending the night at Camp Osborn as the severe weather struck. 

"It's mind blowing just thinking where we were planning on staying," said one scout leader, Sharon Scott, "Just to see the trees and everything. We could've lost every child that we had out there." 

The shelter where the boys were going to stay was crushed by trees. 
However, just like good scouts, the boys were prepared. Once they learned of storm warnings they moved. 

To get to the boys the Georgia Forestry Commission had to bulldoze a path. Hours later, when they were finally able to walk outside, the view was shocking.

"It was a shock when we got out of here to actually see it in daylight," remembered Sharon, "The damage that was done around the camp. We were shocked." 

Hunter Kimball captured this drone footage of the campgrounds.

THE RECOVERY

Albany neighborhoods came together to survey the devastation left behind by winds that reached 90 miles per hour.

Linda Thomas was left speechless after looking at the damage in her neighborhood. "I got in my closet and it was like a freight train coming through that's what it sounded like," she said. Thomas said she's thankful she's alive. Material items that were lost can be replaced. "I just thank God we are alive and we didn't have any fatalities over here."

As neighbors pulled together to cleanup, they weren't as concerned about the damage, they were just relieved everyone was safe.

Especially Brenda Lowery, who drove to the neighborhood as soon as she could to check on her family. "It's terrifying to know your children are in the middle of a tornado and you can't get to them and do anything to help them."

Lowery was grateful for the community who's lending a helping hand.  "Some say it's a horrible town, other say it's the good life. I think it's like any other place. You've got the good and the bad but when something like this happens everybody pulls together."

MORE: Neighborhood bonds after devastating storm

The Palmyra Heights neighborhood, known for its historic canopies of live oak trees, was in shambles. Neighbors said it was incredible to see everyone, including young kids helping out. "It's just amazing how something like this pulls people together. I hadn't cried but when I think about everything people are doing to help us it's awesome," said Debora Radcliffe.

MORE: Historic neighborhood comes together to cleanup

Replanting the many trees in Albany lost during January's storm will be a lengthy process. Tift Park, famous for its gorgeous old oak trees, lost many of them during the storm. And the landscape of Hilsman Park in the historic Rawson Circle District was also devastated. "Grow Albany" is working to replant the trees lost during the damaging high wind storm that toppled, cracked and uprooted hundred-year-old trees.

As for the businesses that were damaged in the storm? Hamilton Relay not only rebuilt after the storm, they also expanded their space. The Albany Museum of Art is now looking at moving to a new location in Downtown Albany. And the Eastside Pet Salon on Gillionville Road partially reopened just two weeks later and was fully reopened in March.

Officials estimated that there was one million cubic yards of storm debris in Albany from the storms on January 2nd. 

The City of Albany published a video of the cleanup efforts. You can watch it below.

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