DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) - Dougherty County's Chairman Chris Cohilas stunned many when he went on the record with WALB that damage estimates from the January 22 tornado is at $2 billion and counting.
As the leader of the county, Cohilas has worked tirelessly with federal and state leaders, trying to secure attention and funding for the community, and knows the totality of the damage as well, if not better, than anyone.
And, Cohilas said he stands by the $2 billion estimate.
"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."
Higher because three of Albany's largest economic drivers, the military base, big industry and agriculture all took major hits from the January 22 tornado.
Cohilas said the Marine Corps Logistics Base sustained $323 million in damage.
He also calculated there was $650 million in damage to large industry. That figure includes damage sustained at P&G's Albany Plant, but also damage estimates Cohilas said haven't been made public.
Those two sectors alone equal $973 million in damage estimates.
Add in damage to agricultural land and Cohilas said the number is at $1 billion.
"Just three separate large industries at almost 1 billion dollars. Then you start, you add in the damages, some of which can be calculated, some that can't be calculated. The number of homes wiped off the face of the earth. Take into account lost revenue, take into account the agricultural equipment that was completely destroyed. Take into account the value of the acres that were pulled up from the root and laid down. I don't have a problem saying it was $2 billion. Frankly, I think the number is higher is that," said Cohilas.
Along the 70 mile path of the EF-3 tornado, which was 1.25 miles wide with winds at 150 mph, evidence of the disaster is evident, almost six months after the tornado.
There are "Keep Out" signs and rope blocking the entrances into several closed neighborhoods off Holly Drive and U.S. 82.
"In a disaster like this, you don't have a calculator at every single address. You have to aggregate the numbers you get from public information and sources and utilize some of your partners to calculate this information, and I tell you it has been staggering to see," said Cohilas.
Chairman Cohilas said to overcome the overall economic impact of the back-to-back storms in January, the community will need investment from Congress to build back better and stronger.
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