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In the storm’s path, recovery continues

Storm’s strength rivaled by community’s willingness to help

According to the National Weather Service, radar data and aerial video helped determine there were three tornadoes on the ground simultaneously in southwest Spalding and northeastern Pike Jan. 12. The NWS has issued many follow up statements on the storm’s strength.

“The tornadoes were part of a larger mesocyclone which can be traced west all the way to the Selma, Alabama tornado. This particular tornado would become the dominant circulation which impacted Griffin and much of Spalding. The tornado first touched down in northwest Pike along Highway 362 west of Irish Hill Drive where a few trees were snapped and uprooted and it quickly increased in intensity to an EF1 as it crossed Kings Bridge Road, Huff Creek Road and Scott Branch Road where numerous trees were snapped and uprooted.”

“As the storm crossed Blanton Mill Road, more severe damage was noted both on the ground and aerial survey and it was determined that EF2 damage was present in the area around Bethany Church Road where widespread snapping of trees occurred and a few structures were severely damaged. The storm continued east, northeast, crossing into Spalding County southwest of Williamson Road where EF2 damage was noted.”

The report says the data shows the circulations merging with a tornado forming in southwest Spalding County with widespread wind damage that spanned nearly two miles across with very strong inflow winds. That’s when the tornado reached peak intensity of 145-150 miles per hour and several homes were completely destroyed along Kendall Drive.

Ways to help local victims

Despite the strength of the storm, the community immediately started working together to help those in need. Donations can be dropped off at the Pike County Middle School and will be accepted through Jan. 25. Items needed include totes with lids, moving boxes, packing tape, pop top meals, cans of tuna or chicken, individually packaged cookies or snacks, soap, shampoo, deodorant, baby wipes, paper plates and plastic utensils.

Those who need help with tree removal or supplies can call 678-453-4508. It is also the number to call for volunteers who would like to help area residents clean up debris.

Volunteers will be available to answer calls from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will be directed where to help. Those with chainsaws, skidsteers or the ability to put on gloves and move limbs are needed for the clean up effort.

Just Because Ministries is partnering with the PCHS Student Council and clubs to collect tornado relief donations. They will be accepted through Jan. 27 and items needed include (new) toiletries such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, feminine hygiene supplies, ChapStick, Depends for adults, children’s diapers, baby food, formula, non-perishable foods such as but not limited to tuna, chicken, crackers, protein bars, beef sticks, chips, individually wrapped snacks, manual can openers, flashlights with batteries, tarps, blankets, hand warmers, socks, drinks, dry dog and cat food, wet dog food for puppies, cat litter and leashes.

The Pike County Elementary School collected items as well.

Barnesville Church of the Nazarene will also be a collection site for those affected by the tornadoes.

Penny Hutson is working in coordination with the Distribution Center in Griffin as a drop-off point that will distribute items to those in need since that is the main donation center for tornado victims. The church is only a collection site, and will not be distributing items.

EMA, GEMA seeking individual assistance from FEMA

Work continues in the wake of the Jan. 12 tornadoes and local businesses and individuals can apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help with costs related to cleanup and recovery. Pike County EMA director Jim Totten said 89 properties in Pike were impacted by this storm and 71 did not have damage to the primary home but had debris down or loss of power. He said the remaining 18 properties had varying degrees of damage, including two that local officials consider destroyed.

“To be eligible for either the Public Assistance (PA) or the Individual Assistance (IA) categories of declaration, the county must meet a certain threshold of damage. Unfortunately, Pike County did not meet the dollar threshold requirement after this disaster. Many residents have been advised by FEMA that disaster assessments were not completed after Thursday’s storm however this is simply not the case,” said Totten. “It is also important to remember that even if Pike County did meet the dollar threshold this disaster, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee reimbursement. Several years ago, Pike County was declared after an ice storm and submitted over $250,000 in damages. FEMA denied these reimbursements because we did not have pictures of our dirt roads prior to the ice storm.”

Totten noted Pike EMA is working with GEMA to get an IA (individual assistance) Emergency declaration from FEMA and Pike residents qualify for low interest loans through the Small Business Administration.

Pike County commissioners ratified a Declaration of Local Emergency at a Jan. 13 called meeting. Commissioners signed a declaration ending the state of emergency for Pike on Jan. 17. At the Jan. 13 meeting, commissioner James Jenkins made a motion to approve the additional funding related to the severe storm and related damage including but not limited to payroll, debris removal and whatever else is necessary and commissioner Jason Proctor seconded the motion, which passed 3-0.

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced loans for homeowners and local businesses in Pike and surrounding counties. A Business Recovery Center will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday at the Spalding Senior Center at 855 Memorial Drive in Griffin. Representatives will help business owners and residents fill out applications and answer questions about the disaster loan program.
The SBA offers businesses and private nonprofit organizations of any size up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster-damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets. For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations, the SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any physical property damage. Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace disaster-damaged or destroyed real estate.

Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace disaster-damaged or destroyed personal property.

Interest rates are as low as 3.305 percent for businesses, 2.375 percent for nonprofit organizations and 2.313 percent for homeowners and renters, with terms up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

“Building back smarter and stronger can be an effective recovery tool for future disasters. The opportunity to include measures to help prevent future damage from occurring is a significant benefit of SBA’s disaster loan program,” said SBA Associate Administrator Francisco Sanchez, Jr. “I encourage everyone to consult their contractors and emergency management mitigation specialists for ideas and apply for an SBA disaster loan increase for funding.”

Applicants may be eligible for a loan amount increase of up to 20 percent of their physical damages, as verified by the SBA, for mitigation purposes. Eligible mitigation improvements may include a safe room or storm shelter, sump pump, elevation, retaining walls and landscaping to help protect property and occupants from future damage caused by a similar disaster.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at and should apply under SBA declaration # 17761. To be considered for all forms of disaster assistance, applicants should register online at or download the FEMA mobile app. If online or mobile access is unavailable, applicants should call the FEMA toll-free helpline at 800-621-3362.

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