After tornado destroyed West Point home, family rebuilding in same spot

Published 9:51 am Saturday, September 9, 2023

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A new home is going up on First Avenue just north of West Point. It will be the first home entirely rebuilt in the area since an EF-3 tornado did massive damage to the area early on a Sunday morning in March. Several houses were leveled, large trees uprooted and a number of vehicles flipped. According to the National Weather Service, an EF-3 tornado can produce wind of between 160 and 200 miles an hour, leaving catastrophic damage in its path.

The new home is being built for Eddie and Winnie Houston. Their former home was directly in the path of the March 29 tornado and was completely destroyed. The Houstons were home at the time and miraculously escaped with minor injuries.

Their son, Maurice, told The Valley Times-News on Thursday that they were awakened by the approaching tornado and were making their way from the bedroom to a safer part of the house when the tornado hit. It tore the house off its foundation and hurled it toward what had been a wooded backyard. What had been a family home was left a crumpled mess underneath limbs and broken tree trunks. Maurice and brother Edwin Houston rushed toward their parents’ home when they heard about a tornado touching down there. Maurice lives on Old West Point Road near LaGrange and Edwin in the Roper Heights neighborhood in West Point.

“Edwin brought a four-wheeler with him, and it’s a good thing he did,” Maurice said. “I don’t know how we would have gotten our parents out of what was left of their home without it. Thank God our parents weren’t seriously injured.”

The Houstons were transported to the emergency room at Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center in LaGrange. Mrs. Houston received six stitches to close a cut on her arm. Her husband was treated for some minor injuries as well.

“I think he was mostly concerned about her,” Maurice said.

The Houstons were far from alone in surviving close calls that day. A number of their neighbors were in homes that were severely damaged. Some were in houses that collapsed on them.

Immediately after the storm, the Houstons pulled together to help rebuild the lives of their parents. They found new living arrangements for Eddie and Winnie and went about cleaning up the lot where the house had been. That was a herculean chore in and of itself. Many of their neighbors went through the same thing.

“We got to thinking about building back where the original home was,” Maurice said. “We got a lot of help and encouragement from people like our brother-in-law Robert Holcomb and Jennifer Hill. Our extended family is fortunate to have some ministers we are close to. Our cousin, Jeremy Bryant, is a pastor in Newnan. We have been overwhelmed by the support we have gotten.”

When the lot was cleared of debris, the family started thinking about rebuilding on-site. They pooled their energies and resources and made big plans.

“This has been a family effort all the way,” Maurice said. “It was really emotional for me when we got a new foundation built. I said to myself that we are really going to do this.”

The house is now dried in and in an advanced state of construction. It stands as a symbol that people of the community were knocked down by a strong tornado but were not knocked out.

“We are hoping to have it finished and our parents moved in by Christmas,” Maurice said. “We are planning to have a big celebration, and we want everyone who helped us in some way to be a part of it. I am so grateful our parents went through what they did without being seriously injured, and I am grateful the family has come together to build them a new house.”

One of the Houstons’ neighbors, Jamie Lashley, has been doing repair work on his damaged house. A number of houses in the neighborhood have blue tarps on their roofs to protect from further water damage during rainy days.

An estimated 100 homes were damaged by the tornado. Approximately 30 were completely destroyed but amazingly, only five people received injuries, none of which were serious.