6 years later, some in Southwest Ga. still recovering after deadly tornadoes

A home adjacent to Radium Springs still has roof damage.
A home adjacent to Radium Springs still has roof damage.(WALB)
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 10:51 AM EST
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Sunday marked six years since deadly tornadoes tore through southwest Georgia homes and businesses.

Several people died from the tornadoes — including five in Dougherty County and seven in Cook County. On that day, five tornadoes touched down in South Georgia. That included an EF-3 tornado in south Albany packed with 150-mile-per-hour winds.

Gary Whearry was a part of one of the hundreds of people providing relief from the storms. He was out driving to tour the damage still left behind and the progress still made.

“I’m reminiscing on six years ago. The devastation was unreal. Today, I’m just coming out to see how it looks out here,” Whearry said.

He said that although the devastation was big, every year he thinks about what was done in relief.

Teresa Knight also saw these efforts with the Albany Chain Gang. They are a volunteer group that helped cut down trees and clean yard debris.

A home left overgrown since the 2017 tornadoes.
A home left overgrown since the 2017 tornadoes.(WALB)

“A lady I ran into, she needed a tree off her house. She needed a new room. She needed all the stuff and in the matter of hours, people came together to rescue this woman’s house,” Knight said.

She said we need to remember that although things may seem divided today, there is still a lot of good in people. With all the efforts to clean and rebuild, there is still a lot of damage left. Palm trees dead. Homes still damaged. Yards still left with debris.

Many though have since recovered.

Betty Byrd heard the tornado come through her yard. They rebuilt in six months. Pine trees though are still noticeably absent. She said they are scared to put in new trees because of what could happen if they fall. As a result, she said summers are more brutal without the trees for shade.

Byrd has a brick home but is still scarred. She said that even a little storm freaks her out today.

“It’s embedded in my mind because I’ve never done anything like that. Like I’ve said, I’ve heard people say that sounds like a freight train and it did,” Byrd said.

Byrd said there was no thought to move because a tornado could happen anywhere.

Not everyone has made a 100% recovery. Plots are still empty after the homes were torn down. Many mobile homes yet to be rebuilt too. A gas station on Holly Road and U.S. 19 has yet to be rebuilt. The tornado destroyed many homes and some businesses in Albany, including Paradise Village Mobile Home Park. The roads in the village look to be newly paved. The homes destroyed in Paradise Village haven’t been rebuilt.

“I think in the mobile home park they need storm shelters there. Because they are so susceptible,” Whearry said.

Knight thinks shelters are a must too.

“If they have a place to go and they have pets, they aren’t going to leave that animal. So what kind of shelter that is animal friendly that they have a kennel to put them in,” Knight said.

Knight said it’s important to do this story every year to remind people how bad it was, and how South Georgia came together and helped.