POSTED March 3
AMERICUS, Ga. (BP)–Tornadoes bounced across south Georgia the night of March 1, killing nine amid destroyed homes, businesses and churches.
In Americus, along with damaged homes and businesses, the Baptist associational office was destroyed and at least two Baptist churches suffered damage.
“I heard it and I felt it,” said Bryan Myers, youth pastor at Central Baptist Church in Americus. Myers huddled with his wife and three young children in the hallway of their home while the tornado touched down in his neighborhood about 9:30 Thursday night.
“I could feel the pressure. It felt like the oxygen was being sucked out of the room. It didn’t last long, but it was frightening,” Myers said.
Myers wasn’t alone. Current estimates say more than 100 homes were damaged in the storm. Sumter Regional Medical Center near downtown Americus lost a roof and had dozens of windows blown out during the storm. Many of the oak trees lining the streets in front of the stately homes in the downtown historic district toppled and crashed into roofs and the sides of houses. Two people were killed in Sumter County.
A Georgia Baptist assessment team was on site Friday to determine the response by local disaster relief units. Samaritan’s Purse disaster relief volunteers, meanwhile, were setting up Friday afternoon at Central Baptist.
The congregation lost a steeple and had damage in second-floor rooms from wind and rain. The church, which relocated just 14 months ago in a new building, also lost its sign and storage buildings.
Cheek Memorial Baptist Church, also in Americus, had severe damage to its building and parsonage.
The office for Friendship Baptist Association was in the path of the eye of the tornado. The street it sits on was reduced to rubble after the storm. Across the street, a medical clinic was missing an entire wall, but boxes of files were still stacked neatly.
The association’s office lost part of a roof and part of a wall.
Charles Stoops, director of missions for Friendship association, was able to get through the blocked roads and walk to his office to check out the damage.
“The insurance adjuster told me [on the phone] to make sure and secure all the openings,” Stoops said. “I don’t think he quite understood the damage here.”
“I wanted to get our stuff out so we could get on to helping other people. I was able to get the historical records and the hard drives from the computers and the checkbook. I only had about 45 minutes to get out of there,” said Stoops, who has been at the association only since October.
“We’re going to be OK,” he said. “I’ve already had offers to set up an office in several churches. We’ll rebuild and we can find a place to work in the meantime. The churches and homes are in much worse shape than we are.”
At Central Baptist, associate pastor Hugh DeLoach said, “We’ve got electricity at the church and we’re fixing food and taking plates to a lot of our folks who can’t get out.
“We’re trying to get our heads around all this and get organized. We’re all still just trying to figure it out.”