20 Years Later: Decatur, Surrounding Areas Struck by Tornadoes

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DECATUR - It's been 20 years since two devastating tornadoes touched down in Decatur and surrounding areas on successive days.

The first tornado touched down in southeast Decatur, near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Marion Street, on April 18, 1996.  The tornado, classified as an EF1, moved north east through Lincoln Street, the Nelson Park Golf Course, and crossed Highway 36 before lifting.  Authorities say nine people sustained minor injuries, and damages were estimated to be around $1.5 million.

The second tornado, classified as an EF3, touched down two miles south-southwest of Niantic on April 19, 1996.  NWS officials say the tornado traveled to the east-northeast, causing extensive damage, The tornado made its way through Old Harristown, destroying four or five homes while damaging others and tearing the roof off of the grade school gymnasium, before making its way to the west side of Decatur.

Once in Decatur, the tornado destroyed a church and a couple of homes at the intersection of Wyckles and Center Roads before making its way to Ravina Park Road.  The tornado then traveled east-northeast down Ravina Park Road and crossed Oakland Avenue, destroying the Sims Lumber Company building before lifting.  It touched back down several more times, causing damage east of Morgan Street and to a manufacturing building at Pershing and 27th Streets.  Officials say 29 people were injured, and damage was estimated to be about $9 million.

WAND covered the tornadoes in depth, and we have included a compilation of coverage in this article, using footage that was filmed twenty years ago.

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