Weeks after a mile-wide tornado, operations on this Marine base are still dramatically altered
By DAN LAMOTHE | The Washington Post | Published: February 7, 2017
A tornado that ripped through the Marine Corps' top logistics base last month caused damage extensive enough that virtually all work on one of its primary functions - the restoration of combat vehicles - has not recommenced, the service's No. 2 general said Tuesday.
Gen. Glenn Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, told the House Armed Services Committee that workers at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany in Georgia are still in the process of clearing buildings and warehouses that collapsed. The twister, which measured as EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, with wind speeds of up to 150 mph, hit the southwestern side of the base about 3:20 p.m. Jan. 22, flipping three-ton vehicles, uprooting scores of trees and leaving a twisted pile of sheet metal and other wreckage.
"They're operating at a minimal capacity right now in areas that weren't affected," Walters said in response to a question from Rep. David Scott, R-Ga. The general said that bringing the base's ability to refurbish equipment back online is critical.
"That's where our tanks, our amphibious vehicles, our light-armored vehicles and our artillery go through depot," Walters said. "I don't have an estimate right now on when that is going to start up again."
The afternoon tornado was the largest among dozens that hit the Southeast that weekend. In addition to cutting northeast across the industrial section of the base, it hit the nearby city of Albany, killing five people and leaving a 2-year-old boy missing. At least 19 people in southern Georgia and Mississippi were killed in tornadoes that weekend. No one was killed on the base.
The National Weather Service said the tornado raked the ground for nearly 71 miles and had a width of up to 1.2 miles. Multiple double-wide trailers were destroyed on base, several light poles were snapped off at the base, and a large concrete building had its solid concrete roof shifted more than two inches, according to the service.
The Marine Corps base in Albany is home to the Marine Corps Logistics Command and is one of two locations where the corps refurbishes equipment. The other, Marine Logistics Base Barstow in California, may be used more in coming months, Walters said.
"It's good that we have two, because if it's going to be a long period of time, we're going to have to make a decision on what we do out at Barstow and what we don't do out at Barstow to take the critical things and move them out there," Walters said. "My preference would be to rapidly get Albany back up running at 100 percent."