(WALB) - Just three weeks into cleaning up after the devastating January 2nd storms, the unthinkable happened. Southwest Georgia would have another destructive weekend.
This time, South Georgia was hit with three back-to-back rounds of severe weather, with the third round being the most destructive and deadliest. Dougherty, Worth, and Turner Counties were hit by an EF-3 tornado. Clay, Calhoun, and Randolph Counties were hit by an EF-2 tornado. Fifteen people were killed in the storms and dozens more were injured.
A LOOK AT THE DAMAGE
The damage in Dougherty County alone is estimated to be $2 billion, according to County Chairman Chris Cohilas. "I do think it is important to make sure that we are honest with ourselves about how big the damage was. I have no problem at all saying it was $2 billion in damage. I am sure the number is higher than that," said Cohilas.
Southeast Dougherty County was hit the hardest. Paradise Village off of Holly Drive was shredded, leaving four people dead.
The warehouse for P&G was severely damaged.
A strip mall that was at the corner of Moultrie Road and Trailer Lane was destroyed as well as the Circle K gas station just a block to the east. Several other mobile home parks off of Holly Drive also had damage.
A satellite view of the Proctor & Gamble warehouse and MCLB Albany before and after the EF-3 tornado. (Drag the white bar side-to-side to see the damage.)
The strip mall that was located on the corner of Moultrie Road and Trailer Lane. It has since been demolished. (Source: Misty Sellers Clark)
Six months later, there are still neighborhoods off Holly Drive and US 82 that are barricaded with "Keep Out" signs. (Source: WALB)
Governor Nathan Deal toured the damage with several other state leaders both from the air and on the ground. "You find out how important it is to have communities like this, who have neighbors who are helping neighbors," said Gov. Deal. "Pretty much everything that was in its path was either leveled or severely damaged."
Sunshine Acres mobile home park near Adel in Cook County had the deadliest toll. Seven people were killed as part of the mobile home park was obliterated.
Widespread devastation at Sunshine Acres mobile home park (Source: Megan DeBerry)
More damage in Cook County (Source: WALB)
REMOVING ROOT BALLS
Over the next few months, hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of would be spent cleaning up the debris and removing root balls in particular.
Dougherty County residents who still have root balls have until August 1st to sign up to get help removing them.
"The citizens need to understand that on August the tenth, you can't put it on the right of way. You've got to move it yourself," said Keep Albany Dougherty Beautiful Executive Director Judy Bowles.
Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful is teaming up with volunteers from Charlie Freeman Ministries to get root balls to the curb.
And, if you need the help, you can still stop by the Keep Albany Dougherty Beautiful office at 2106 Habersham Road.
"If you're on the list by August 1, we will attempt to get your root balls completely out to the curb so that they can be picked up," explained Bowles.
And, officials said that the August 1 deadline to sign up is a hard one.
After that day they can't help you anymore, and those bringing root balls to the curb themselves will have to do so by the August 6.
Hard deadlines for Dougherty County root ball cleanup:
- Last day to register with Keep Albany Dougherty Beautiful:
- August 1st
- Open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Located at 2106 Habersham Road
- Public Works deadline to get root balls to the curb for Ceres pickup: August 6th
- Contract with debris removal company ends: August 9th
A CHILD STILL MISSING
It's been six months since the EF-3 tornado hit Dougherty County and a toddler that was reported missing during the storm has still not been found.
The parents of Detrez Green, 2, told law enforcement they last saw the child moments before a tornado struck their home in the Piney Woods mobile home park.
Dozens of search and rescue workers spent days in the woods surrounding the mobile home park off Sylvester Road looking for any sign of the child.
When the ground search turned up no clues, a pond near the home was drained and dive team called in.
The GBI, which is assisting with the investigation, later searched the former Turner County home of the child's parents, Kevian Green and Adaijah Rainey.
In 2014, Green was taken into custody following a standoff at the couple's home in Ashburn.
Officials said a 6-day-old infant, believed to have been Detrez, was in the home at the time.
WALB has reached out to the family for a picture of the toddler, but they have not provided us with one. Investigators have told us they also have no picture to go on.
The GBI says the investigation is active but they have no new leads in the case.
Anyone with information about the disappearance of Detrez Green is asked to contact the GBI Sylvester Office at 229-777-2080 or the Dougherty County Police Department at 229-430-6600.
Crews searching for missing toddler Detrez Green in January (Source: WALB)
With hundreds of homes and lots damaged by the EF-3 tornado, tax officials in Dougherty County are working to determine the effect the January storms had on the price of property across the county and how that will ultimately impact property tax revenue.
Hundreds of mobile homes in western Dougherty County were obliterated by the January 22 tornado and will not be rebuilt.
"Two or three of the park owners have already told us they are not going to rebuild the trailer parks. So, not only are we not going to have that on the books, but we are not going to have a place for them to live, so they are going to have to get a place to live in Dougherty County or move to another county," said Dougherty County Chief Tax Assessor Bill Ashberry.
Another problem Ashberry pointed out is the ability for financially strapped individuals to pay their property tax this year.
The county commission is planning a special retreat next month to review long-term plans for the county, including ways to spend less money as tax revenue is expected to drop significantly.
HEALING WITH MUSIC
While area leaders continue to seek aid for the communities, another source of help and healing will come from Nashville.
Some of the world's most famous country boys, hit songwriter Dallas Davidson and country music superstar Luke Bryan are committed to holding a benefit concert supporting the communities they grew up in.
"This wasn't just an Albany thing, this devastated Southwest Georgia," said Bo Henry, an Albany businessman, and musician.
Henry has been the conduit between Southwest Georgia and Nashville, and he spoke with Albany native Dallas Davidson and Leesburg native Luke Bryan's management. As for details about the show, Henry said it's up to the experts.
"Those kind of details are truly up to them. They do this every day. This is what they do for a living. Of course, I have given them options, but in the end, they will be making all of those decisions and I will just be a concert-goer and supporter like the rest of Albany," said Henry.
A concert for all of Southwest Georgia, a region that survived 15 tornadoes in the month of January with damage estimates now in the billions of dollars.
Music stars Phillip Phillips from Albany and Cole Swindell from Bronwood also offered up their talents in support of the community benefit concert.
The South Georgia stars are pledging to do the benefit concert, but right now, all of them have busy tour contracts to fulfill and they are working to find the best date.
Henry agreed that music has healing powers, and the concert will do much to raise people's spirits.
"Music a lot of times brings enjoyment to people and creates a fun environment for people. During a time like this, what's a better time than to bring something like that here?"
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