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On This Day In 1936, The Unthinkable Happened In Georgia

Many of us are familiar with the rich history that surrounds our beautiful state of Georgia. However, there may be a few historical happenings that have slipped under the radar over time, but certainly deserve just the same amount of recognition and remembrance as the rest. One historical event in particular that comes to mind is the Tupelo-Gainesville storm of 1936.

It all started as part of a storm system that hit Tupelo, Mississippi on April 5th, 1936.  The Tupelo tornado, which registered as an F5 on the Fujita Scale, emerged from a complex system of storm cells and created a monster soon known as the fourth-deadliest tornado in U.S. history. It tore through houses, killed entire families and was even said to have left pine needles embedded into trunks of trees. One of the survivors of that storm in Tupelo was none other than a one-year-old Elvis Presley.

Unfortunately, the tragedy of that storm didn’t stop there. The system moved east overnight.

As the sun began its climb on April 6th, 1936 over Gainesville, Georgia, disaster struck. This severe storm produced not only one, but two tornadoes which tore through state, leaving behind chaos and destruction in its wake. One of the tornadoes moved in from the Atlanta highway, while the other moved down the Dawsonville highway. Both ended up merging near Grove street and caused unfathomable wreckage.

Cooper Pants Factory quickly became known as being the worst tornado-caused death toll in a single building in U.S. history. This multiple-story factory building was filled with young female workers, who had just arrived to work like any normal day. After the storm hit, the structure as unable to withstand the damage. It collapsed and caught fire, killing about 70 people.

The overall destruction was barely able to be tallied. Department stores collapsed killing dozens of people, residential areas were devastated with nearly 750 homes destroyed and more than 250 were badly damaged. Buildings caught fire, trapping people inside. The death toll took a while to be calculated, since so many Georgians were still missing. More than 200 people were reportedly killed during the storm in Georgia. It was even reported that the winds were so high that letters from Gainesville were blown almost 70 miles away and found in Anderson, South Carolina.

This storm was ranked as the fifth deadliest tornado in U.S. history, coming in as an F4 on the Fujita Scale. It caused nearly $13 million in damage, which nowadays would be around 25 times that amount.

It was a very sad day in history for the people of Georgia, which is why we want to pay our respects 80 years later.

Do you, (or perhaps a family member,) have any memories from the Tupelo-Gainesville tornado? We’d love for you to share your story.

Marisa Roman
Marisa Roman is an avid reader, writer, and collector of experiences. She travels the country full time in an RV and writes about her adventures.