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A year later: Hall bounces back from triple tornado hit
Fred and Felicia Miller spread plastic over their furniture to protect it from rain after a tornado damaged their Timber Ridge Road home on Aug. 26, 2008.

One year ago today, Fred and Felicia Miller returned home to find part of their roof wrapped around a power pole.

The house belonging to their collie, T-Boat, was missing, and rain had flooded the bathroom and living room of their Timberidge Road home.

Minutes before, it had begun raining inside Farmers Home Furniture on Browns Bridge Road. And hours before that, limbs from an uprooted tree landed inside a home off Mount Vernon Road.

In four hours, three EF1 tornadoes had taken turns tearing at Hall County’s homes and businesses, causing approximately $3.36 million worth of damage on nearly all corners of the county.

In the aftermath of the tornadoes, Hall County Fire Services began to rethink the way it responds to major emergencies, said Division Chief Jerry Smith. While there were no issues in how the county fire department responded to last year’s tornadoes, Smith said the department is working on a process that will allow the department to manage its resources better in future disasters.

Though the program still is in its early stages, Fire Chief David Kimbrell said the change would mean the department would send fewer vehicles to initial reports of severe weather in order to make sure resources are available for future calls.

He said the new process would lighten the load of the fire department’s shift supervisors and the county’s 911 Center during times like last year’s tornado when call volume is high.

"It takes the stress off of dispatch trying to figure out what to send," Kimbrell said. "We’re trying to help them basically relieve some of that stress."

In the days that followed the tornadoes’ strike, the Millers’ co-workers at East Hall Middle and Sardis Elementary pulled together enough money to help them pay for the extensive repairs their mobile home needed. Their home was one of 91 across the county that sustained damage in the storms.

After the couple spent two months making repairs, their lives returned to normal — though Felicia Miller says she is a little more cautious about bad weather.

"We finally got it all back together," Miller said Tuesday.

Despite the damage done to their home, the Millers and their collie made it through the storm OK.

It also took about two months for Farmers Home Furniture to recover from the tornado that spent seconds on the ground near the Big Lots shopping center on Browns Bridge Road. The furniture store was one of 13 businesses affected by the storms last year.

The tornado did extensive damage to the roof on the building, and the rain that poured in damaged all of the furniture in the showroom.

"We were in a tent outside for about a month," said the store’s credit manager, Angel Mitchell. "...When the tornado went through, it pretty much ripped up the roof ...all the way to the back of the building. ... When you were in those rooms then, it was like you were in a rainstorm."

Employees of the furniture store, though eager to return to work, faced challenges returning to normalcy.

Mitchell, who is responsible for collecting payments, said she had to sit at a phone hooked up in the front of the building.

"We had one phone plugged up at the very front of the building with just a list of people that we should call, and rain just coming in," Mitchell said. "(One of the managers, Rodger McElrea) has a picture of me with an umbrella over the box thing that I was sitting at with the computer and the phone, and it’s just pouring in."

Even when workers were able to patch the building’s roof a month and a half later, it leaked throughout the winter, Mitchell said.

"I think our final time of getting it fixed was March of this year," Mitchell said.

The store took about a $318,000 hit from the tornado, Mitchell said, and lost nearly half its employees in the aftermath.

"We haven’t recovered still for the employees," Mitchell said.

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