One year later: How Cairo is recovering after tornado touched down

Published: Mar. 2, 2020 at 6:12 PM EST
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By: Sophia Hernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News

March 2, 2020

CAIRO, Ga. (WCTV) -- A year ago this week, a tornado with winds topping 110 miles an hour touched down in Cairo, Georgia.

Trees were toppled down, hundreds of houses were destroyed. The city was left in disarray.

But 12 months later, the city is in the slow process of recovery. Some homeowners have been able to rebuild while others have relocated.

"There’s a lot to be done,” shares Gwynn Hayes. The Cairo resident of 11 years still lives with his tattered roof. He says progress is going to take some time, "As a community we are just coming back slowly and trying to get everything put back together.”

For Gina Miller, she heard the sounds of freight trains and sirens that Sunday night. The Cairo resident of 13 years spent five months with no place to call home.

"Half of my home, my two guest bedrooms, my bathroom, my dining room all of that was pretty much destroyed," Miller recalled.

She was not the only one.

"Before you know it that was when the trees from across the street came over into this yard,” shares Deweeta Martin, “I had trees on top of the house, trees in the back of the house, trees were down everywhere."

When you walk up and down the streets of downtown, you can see scattered about, homes that are now gone.

One historical church, Full Gospel Church is no longer standing. Martin says it was a town staple, "That place had been there for as long as I could remember."

Sherrie Godwin works as a cashier in the store Cairo IGA. The grocery store had roof damage after the tornado touched down. They closed shop for eight months, but have since reopened to the public. But Godwin says she still looks around and sees a community slowly picking up the pieces.

"It's devastating because there is a house right behind us that is like the roofs caved in, the air conditioner unit caved in, it’s like it just happened," she said.

Now Miller is one of the lucky ones. She shares how she feels after seeing her home look brand new, "Relief, a sense of relief.”

While progress has been made, the road to full recovery is one residents hope comes soon. Miller states, "I think everyone will be okay, it is just taking time." Hayes remains hopeful, "We are going to rebuild and go back to being the friendly city of Cairo."

Hayes is having a contractor look at his roof Monday. Everyone WCTV spoke to in Cairo says the community has been supportive, and they are getting back on their feet.

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