by: Diana Davis Updated:
ADAIRSVILLE, Ga. - Nine months after a tornado ripped a North Georgia plant apart, it is getting ready to re-open.
The Bartow County Daiki Plant was virtually flattened by a tornado January 30th. Gutted ruts from debris slamming against the concrete slabs are still visible. A few letters hang from the wind-ravaged company sign out front. Because of all of this damage, lengthy demolition caused delayed construction.
Thankfully, everyone survived, but many unfortunately lost their jobs as well as their homes.
"We feel like we're orphans. We've been without a home for so long everyone wants to come back," Plant Manager Wes Stehenson told Channel 2's Diana Davis.
Not one of the giant concrete walls of the 200,000 square foot plant remained after the storm towered through North Georgia. Big steel beams were twisted like pretzels. When the storm hit, the plant manager and his employees hunkered down in a bathroom and a break room for shelter.
For one employee, Thane Langille, the memory of climbing through heaps of rubble is still fresh in his mind. "It's just very surreal. When you come out and see an area that you should recognize, a couple minutes before it was all neat and orderly, the way you used to see it every single day. But then when you come out and just see everything just torn and twisted and destroyed like that, it's kind of disturbing," says Langille.
Almost all of the 90 employees lost their jobs, but 30 were re-hired to work in a temporary plant. Daiki hopes to re-hire those who have not already found new jobs. Some customers took their business elsewhere. To start to rebuild, plant operations will be smaller.
"We won't get everything back. We'll get about 50-60 percent of it back and then hopefully we can earn more as time goes on," Stephenson says.
The new plant will be stronger, with reinforced concrete steel and re-bar. There are two storm shelters, one in a deep pit in the middle of the plant. These shelters are reassuring for employees, especially Sam Stephens.
Stephens tells Davis that this tornado was the fourth natural disaster he survived. "A volcano, earthquake, and typhoon. But this was probably the worst storm I've been through," says Stephens.
Construction on the new plant should be complete by February or March and hiring could start in January.