Americus businesses hit hard by twister

March 6, 2007

Americus --  Some businesses are total losses, some sustained minor damage, but most were rushing to try to get their doors open for business again.

The businesses in the 1100 block of East Lamar Street felt the full brunt of Thursday's storm. The roof from the Regional Eye Center is now in pieces in the parking lot of the Electric Wholesale Supplies across the street. Dr. Valerie Moates said, "We were luckier than a lot of people. We were structurally fine. We lost our roof and of course sustained tons of water damage. But we were so much more fortunate."

Tuesday Valerie and Ken Moates continued work on moving their business three doors down to a vacant building that was not as seriously damaged. They are facing lots of challenges and extra expenses. Dr. Ken Moates said "The moving expenses, electrical. We just got power after four days just now. And that has been a major ordeal."

The Doctors hope to have their office open Wednesday, and get back to serving their patients.

The Advance Auto Parts across the street will not be so lucky. Their building is a total loss, as the walls imploded on all sides from the tornado. Regional Manager Rick Stastny said, "We are probably looking at over two million dollars in damages and total losses. We've got a plan to rebuild."

With their building destroyed and their entire inventory ruined, it is expected to take six to eight months before they can open their doors again, but it will be in the same location.

Next door, the Electric Wholesale Supplies had a portion of its roof ripped away, and some structural damages, but unlike the other businesses losing money during the storm, they have done record sales, supplying the equipment supplies needed to get the power back on for their neighbors.

Owner Darrell Crenshaw said, "More of one product, well heads, conduit, whatever it takes to put a mast back up on a house. I've had to go to Atlanta, Macon, Albany, Cordele, to pick up whatever I could to keep the people working."

One thing all three businesses on East Lamar Street agree on, their community came through the storm by working together and helping one another, and will remain on East Lamar Street for their future.

The future of one of Americus' major employers is uncertain. The Winn Dixie grocery store was destroyed by Thursday's tornado. The supermarket chain recently emerged from bankruptcy protection, and some South Georgian's wonder if they will rebuild. This afternoon Winn-Dixie said they are evaluating the situation, and plan to make an announcement on the store's future shortly.

Winn-Dixie is building a mobile pharmacy in the parking lot of the store, and said it would be open by the weekend. Employees are still being paid and will be re-assigned to nearby Winn-Dixies if possible.

City of Americus officials say they have not had time to get an accurate count of the number of businesses sustaining damage of some form in Thursday's deadly tornado, but they know it is more than 50.