After the Storm
Pictured Left: J. Elliot McMullan Public Library eight days after the storm. Notice Christmas wreaths unruffled on the door and window.
Without warning, a tornado struck Newton County on December 19, 2002, first touching the ground at Roberts in the southwestern part of the county where it destroyed several farm buildings, then moved to Bethel Road. From there it took a northeasterly route through the heart of Newton. It took down several buildings as it neared the downtown area, but hip-hopped Newton Elementary School and Newton High School--then in session--before crossing Church Street. It damaged Wal-Mart and other businesses; then, as its final punctuation mark, destroyed Bounds Garden Center before moving into Lauderdale County, Mississippi, where it did further damage.
Although the tornado caused considerable property damage, and although an estimated fifty-five people were injured, no life was lost. This is particularly amazing considering the magnitude of the tornado and the people in is path. The patients in a hospice and two nursing homes were spared injury, although it stripped much of the roofing from Newton Congregate Housing.
J. Elliot McMullan Public Library, the facility used by the Society for its meeting and research materials, received damage when trees fell near the entrance and shingles were ripped from its roof. We are told that while the carpet received water damage, no damage occurred to the books and computers housed there. Our collection was in probably the most sheltered part of the building and reportedly incurred no damage.
Repairs will take time, but the library has agreed to re-open with as few disruptions as possible. This tragedy could have happened anytime and anywhere, but, as much as anything, it underscores the need for the Society to seek its own permanent location where is can ascertain the safety of our records on a daily basis and conduct our meetings in a facility that we maintain.
Additional information about the tornado(s) of 19 December, 2002 can be found at: