Effects of the Tornado on Infrastructure
The tornado strike severely impacted Gainesville’s daily routine by impeding most transportation as well as disrupting power and communication systems.
Transportation Grinds to a Halt
Although the tornado winds usually left road surfaces and railroad track intact, they damaged road and rail vehicles and created extensive piles of debris that inhibited vehicular movement.
The remarkable Vanishing Georgia image hal008 portrays a jumble of wrecked automobiles amid massive heaps of debris from adjacent buildings just to the southwest of the public square along South Main Street.
The close-up pan of film clip torn044 displays a completely smashed automobile, still pinned beneath a large tree felled by the tornado. Several branches have been pruned from the tree to allow at least some pedestrian traffic to continue.
Image hchp0156 from the Hall County Library Historical Photograph Collection documents the power of the tornado to toss around even massive railroad cars. This shot of Gainesville Midland Railway facilities, located a couple of blocks west of the public square, also includes a view (in the left background) of the damaged railroad depot.
Film clip torn002 pans across Gainesville Midland Railway trackage, freight cars, and adjacent buildings in the wake of the tornado strike. Note the extensive debris everywhere – all of which would have to be cleared away before rail operations could resume.
Power and Communication Disrupted
The tornado strike devastated the relatively fragile infrastructure that provided Gainesville with electrical service as well as several forms of communication. Loss of these important connections complicated attempts to cope with the storm’s aftermath.
The city’s power, telephone, and telegraph services all depended on an extensive network of wires supported by utility poles. Film clip torn010 reveals downed wires and broken poles, and dramatically documents futile attempts to tug on a leaning utility pole. Toward the end of the clip, notice the many people in close proximity to downed wires – thereby risking electrocution.
Film clip torn043 portrays the severely damaged electrical substation located on Maple Street just northwest of the public square. After surviving the tornado’s demolition of the Georgia Power Company office on Main Street, manager C. D. Young quickly ran a half block to the substation, where he shut off the power, saving many lives.
Newspapers, another important form of communication for Gainesville citizens, were also severely impacted by the powerful tornado strike. Vanishing Georgia image hal059 shows the devastation of the office of The Gainesville News, which was located on Main Street just south of the public square.