Weeks After Tornado, Albany Devastated By Storms Again

Jan 24, 2017

The storms that ripped through South Georgia and killed 15 people and injured dozens were only the most recent weather tragedy to hit the state. In fact, it was less than a month ago that a tornado ripped through the city of Albany. Now storm recovery in the South Georgia town is starting all over again.

The day starts for Chris Cohilas the way most days in Albany Georgia have started over the last month. Cohilas, chairman of the Dougherty County Commission, tells members of the media what a storm has done to his city. It is a mile wide slash from the southwest to the northeast. Cohilas says this community can’t recover on its own.

“We’re strong people but we’re really hurt right now. We need some help. It needed to be here three weeks ago.”

That’s because three weeks ago the first tornado to destroy homes and displace people hit Albany. This past weekend, a mile-wide swath of his city from one end to the other got demolished again. In the aftermath, Cohilas pleaded on social media and to the press for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

“We’re capable of seeing anything through if we have the resources,” Cohilas said at a recent press conference.

There’s a problem with all the volunteer help, though. The neighborhoods on either side of Radium Springs Road were hit hard. Police have a roadblock up and people are anxious to get in and help. On Monday, Brandon Sanders had to walk two cases of bottled water to his parents who are trapped in their home by trees.

Sanders described the scene. “Pretty much they can’t get in or out right now. But they need water. No electricity. No power. A lot of trees are down and stuff like that, so I am just bringing them water.”

A police officer carried one of the cases of water once Sanders reached the roadblock.

Volunteers are being registered and vetted in the parking lot of a vacant shopping strip nearby. The people there are clearly frustrated.

Earlier this week, Lane Rosen arrived with a chainsaw. He attempted to strike a bargain with Shonna Wiggins to skip to the front of the line.

“If you can get us through the checkpoints with our chainsaws then we can help you and somebody else too,” Rosen explained.”

Wiggins’ mother-in-law is on the other side of the roadblock. She and her husband were turned away. This doesn’t sit well with Rosen.

“I’d be arrested if they didn’t let me in. What do you do? You got to go get your mama,” Rosen said

Eliza McCall from Second Harvest of South Georgia, a food bank, was also waiting. She was worried. The tornado a few weeks ago and Christmas break meant a month away from school and regular meals for children in this city where 30 percent of people live below the poverty line. This latest storm means school is out again.

“And so it compounds an already existing issue of getting food to families who don’t have it even in the best of circumstances,” McCall said.

On Monday, at the disaster area, trees were down everywhere and the streets were busy with high powered off-road vehicles usually used for hunting or on the farm.

On a side street deep in one neighborhood, Torie Clemons hefted an axe to help free a car trapped beneath a tree. The warehouse where he works had the roof blown away so he is out of work for now. But he wasn’t worried.

“Me? God take care of it. He’ll take care of it,” Clemons said.” “I’m gonna be alright.”

What’s more Clemons says he has family and friends looking out for him.