This tornado reached downtown Gainesville as a double-funnel storm that caused 203 deaths and $13 million worth of damage.
Early in the morning of April 6, 1936, an F4 tornado landed in Hall County southwest of Gainesville, Georgia, destroying homes and infrastructure as it moved toward downtown Gainesville. A second funnel from west of the city joined it and together they hit the square in downtown Gainesville. Memories linger long in situations like these.
One lady recalled, sixty years later, how dark the city had suddenly become in the middle of the day. She had never seen anything like it before and all she heard from the people around her was to take cover as quickly as possible. She had no idea what they meant. The tornado destroyed almost everything in the downtown area, killing 203, injuring another 1,600, and causing $13 million worth of damage.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was on his way from Washington, D.C., to Warm Springs, Georgia, stopped in Gainesville three days after the storm and witnessed the destruction. This city was a struggling community in 1936. Its economic base had been weakened as a result of the depression of the 1930s. The boll weevil, drought, and crop failure had destroyed so much farmland that many farmers sought jobs away from the farms. Unemployment levels were high. Weather was not on many people’s minds.
In the downtown area on the morning of April 6, 1936, about two hundred people reported for work at the Cooper Pants factory. People on the way to the courthouse and kids on the way to school began to fill the square. Had there been better warning systems in place, the people of Gainesville would have been more prepared for what happened because, on the evening of the previous day, an F5 tornado passed through Tupelo, Mississippi, one of many tornadoes that were moving in the direction of Gainesville, about two hundred miles farther east.