Home / 1999 Tornado: 20 Years Later / Jan. 21, 2009: Mills, first on the scene
Archival photos taken soon after the severely damaging F3 tornado struck downtown Clarksville TN on January 22, 1999. Austin Peay State University sustained heavy damage to landscaping, trees, and many buildings across the campus. The west side of Harvill Hall on the left side of the photo shows that nearly the whole roof is missing. Ahead is Woodward library.

Jan. 21, 2009: Mills, first on the scene

Editor’s Note: This is a special republication of our 10-year anniversary edition of the 1999 tornado titled “Celebrating Restoration.”

 

A personal account by Joe Mills | Director of Housing and Residence Life

I got here probably about 4:30-4:35, right after it had happened. I think the two things that I remember the most were it was dark. There was not a light anywhere. The only lights were coming off my truck.

When I got out of the truck, it was the most silent, noiseless situation I have ever been in. It wasn’t windy. There were no birds; there were no people outside; there wasn’t traffic.

Joe Mills, director of Housing and Residence Life

It was just eerily silent. When I walked up to Harvill, it was still dark at that point in time and I couldn’t see what was around. My concern was making sure the students were okay.

When I opened up the lobby door, all of the students from Harvill, including all the housing staff were all down in the lobby. I remember because they had the emergency lights on and I had just taken a flashlight and I have never seen a group of more scared kids in my life.

We walked upstairs to see what the damage was. It basically ripped about half the roof off that building. On the top floor there in Harvill, you could actually stand in those rooms, look up and see the stars.

I remember one of the craziest things I saw. There was a piece of board that was stuck in the side of Music Mass Comm. That was crazy, just stuck right in the brick.

Archival photos taken soon after the severely damaging F3 tornado struck downtown Clarksville TN on January 22, 1999. Austin Peay State University sustained heavy damage to landscaping, trees, and many buildings across the campus.

I think I was one of the very first people on campus. What was really kind of weird was that driving up, when I came off Riverside Dr. and came up Marion Street like I said
there was not a light to be found. I didn’t start seeing garbage until I started getting down where the new rec center is now and up towards Harvill. I’ve never seen so much garbage: bricks and boards.

One really goofy thing was, as you drive down that road in front of Har- vill, they have a kind of parallel parking. All the cars were exactly opposite the way they should have been. It was the weirdest thing I have ever seen.

There were two cars stacked on top one another. But they all got shifted ex- actly the other way and all just crammed right up against one another. Every one of them got turned. There were probably 25 cars that parked right there.

When the whole thing got over with, I think the thing I think about all the time is the fact that when we got everybody evacuated out of the housing, we had no student injuries.

The one thing that was thankful was the fact that it happened about 4:20 in the morning.

If it happened in the middle of the day, there is no telling what would have happened. People out on campus walking around, doing all that kind of stuff, so I felt very lucky.

I think it was a great reminder for us of why we do our drills and why we have our floor meetings. I was really proud of housing staff and the fact we were able to get everybody evacuated and get everyone to a lower level basically with no injuries. I hope we never go through it again.

 

About Courtney McCormick

Courtney McCormick is a junior information specialty communication major, minoring in professional writing and journalism.

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