16 years later: Remembering the March 2007 tornado that destroyed medical center in Americus

Sumter County Medical is now owned by Phoebe. The hospital was rebuilt on the south side of town.
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 7:22 PM EST
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AMERICUS, Ga. (WALB) - Wednesday marks 16 years since a deadly EF-3 tornado ripped through Americus and destroyed their medical center.

That doesn’t erase the fact people have bad memories from the day of the tornado.

“Whenever the wind picks up… yeah I still get nervous,” Manger of Clinic Drug Store, Stephen Pinnell said.

His doors got blown in. He said that it looked like a bomb went off with all of the trees and power lines down. His near-century-old business has recovered since, but not everywhere has. Nothing much has changed to the property after the hospital was demolished in the weeks after the storms.

Aerial view of the tornado damage in Americus
Aerial view of the tornado damage in Americus(WALB)

There has been development recently in the area. A developer bought the hospital property a few years ago, according to QPublic. There is now a Chick-Fil-A in an adjacent lot. A different owner is building a Papa John’s across the street.

EMA Director Nigel Poole says these are very promising developments for the town.

“There’s room for more activity that I know our county chamber it’s working really hard to get people here,” Poole said.

Nigel Poole was a part of the emergency response team for Red Cross. He is now the EMA Director...
Nigel Poole was a part of the emergency response team for Red Cross. He is now the EMA Director for the County(WALB)

Poole was a part of the Red Cross response. He and EMS services saved many lives that day and the weeks following.

Andrea Wilson was on the hospital staff. She was alert that day. Then they heard about storms south of Plains.

“So we were kind of alert preparing to potentially have damage to our community. But certainly didn’t expect it to hit the facility,” Wilson said.

Lynwood McClung was also part of the EMS response. He said that he drove home thinking the worst was past them. He came back after the tornado hit.

“They did a good job protecting visitors in the building, at the time, by moving them out of the way of windows,” McClung said.

The hospital was prepared for the storm because they did routine drills. Drills they still do today. What has changed since then is an internal system that alerts hospital staff.

The town had tornado sirens at the time. Now they don’t. Poole told WALB about what life-saving technology the town has as they wait for new ones.

“A positive that came about from the tornadoes that came through was the mass notification system that Sumter County arises. We use the Code Red system that allows us to get almost instantaneous messages to all of our citizens in Sumter County. It specializes to where the people are in town,” Poole said.

Click here to sign up for the alerts.

Sumter County Medical is now owned by Phoebe Health Systems. The hospital was rebuilt on the south side of town. WALB has been told they’re in a much better space now.

“At our new campus, we have a walking trail. We had the ability to expand our hospital with 76 beds and 183,000 square feet,” Community Relations for Phoebe Sumter, Marcus Johnson said.

Johnson adds that the hospital now focuses on preventative care rather than treatment.