CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – On the morning of January 21, 1999, an F-3 tornado with winds in excess of 160 mph ravaged downtown Clarksville, destroying 124 buildings and damaging 562 others including buildings at Austin Peay. Damage totaled $72.7 million.
There were five injuries, but no fatalities, likely because the storm hit at 4:15 am. Had it struck later in the day, many likely would have died.
The landmark Montgomery County Courthouse was hit hard, along with historical churches such as the Madison Street United Methodist Church and Trinity Episcopal Church.
Some said the scene here in downtown Clarksville resembled a bombed-out London, England during World War 2.
Lee Erwin, ClarksvilleNow.com and 5 Star Media recalled the morning:
“The courthouse behind us was just destroyed, it seemed like. There was so much destruction on the streets and roadways. So many buildings that I had known for many years were damaged or completely destroyed downtown”.
It was a long process, but the people of Clarksville and Montgomery County worked together to clean up and rebuild.
“All of the businesses came together. And of course, our mayors came together. We worked with all the emergency folks, and we got things back to a great view downtown. We were sort of re-born after that, sort of like the Phoenix rising up, Erwin said.