As the cleanup continues from last week’s tornado that ravaged Adairsville in Bartow County, one family is no longer joking about what they now realize was a lifesaver.
Four generations of the Jackson family, along with Alex Coker, who will soon marry into the clan, lived at the precise spot where the powerful EF-3 tornado crossed State Road 140 in Adairsville Wednesday morning. The storm finally proved Coker’s soon-to-be grandfather-in-law right.
Coker says the older man built the storm cellar many years ago and soon became the butt of family jokes.
“He’d leave everybody in the house every time the wind blew. He’d say, ‘I’m goin’ to the storm pit!’ and he’d drive his little truck down here,” Coker explained, standing in front of a cinderblock structure built into the side of a small hillock under what used to be the Jackson family home.
Coker said he held the iron chain bolted to the wooden plank door that protected those inside the shelter from the tornado’s deadly winds. When he and the others emerged, they found the little truck smashed. Coker’s truck was heavily damaged. The Jackson homestead was completely flattened. Another home Coker and his fiancée were remodeling was also utterly destroyed.
But Coker, his 3-year old son and the three other people who took shelter in the storm cellar are alive, thanks to the elder Jackson’s thoughtful preparedness.
“Right after it happened, me and him went out and were standing out there and I said, ‘well, I guess nobody will make fun of you anymore,’” Coker said.