Editor’s Note: This is a special republication of our 10-year anniversary edition of the 1999 tornado titled “Celebrating Restoration.”
By Marlon Scott | Editor-in-Chief in Spring 2009
Before sunrise on Friday, January 22, 1999, 10 years ago, a tornado rearranged the face of downtown Clarksville and the APSU community. Afterward, the tornado was classified as an F3.
A tornado classified as an F3 on the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale is described as producing severe damage: Roofs and some walls torn off well-constructed homes; trains overturned; most trees in forests uprooted; heavy cars lifted off the ground and thrown (www.spc.noaa.gov).
In a survey of the tornado posted at www. srh.noaa.gov, the tornado is documented to have been on the ground from 4:15 to 4:20 a.m., creating a path of destruction 4.3 miles long and 880 yards wide. The property damage was estimated at $72.7 million.
In both national and local newspapers, pictures of buildings that appear to have been bombed accompanied dramatic headlines. Every story written on that day listed the trees thrown, windows shattered and roofs obliterated like an extensive bill someone was tallying for Mother Nature.
However, the numbers and scientific observations do not adequately tell the story of this horrifying morning and the subsequent recovery that brought the Clarksville community together.
The full impact of this unforgettable morning is best told by those who huddled in bathtubs and closets, listening to radios. The vivid images of the 124 buildings destroyed and more 500 buildings damaged (including 22 at APSU) were captured by the people of Clarksville who stumbled, shocked, through the rubble.
Miraculously, while cars were tossed like toys and thick trees snapped like toothpicks, no one was killed, and few were hurt. It was a small consolation as parts of Clarksville lay in ruins.
For this special edition, we prodded the memories of the people who were there 10 years ago. We collected information from a wide variety of helpful people who were students, faculty and staff at the time.
With their words and pictures, this edition was compiled to tell the stories that unfolded on dawn filled with destruction.