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Airport gains stability after tornado

By Aisha I. Jefferson

Clayton County officials continue to assess the damage Tara Field sustained during a small tornado that ravaged the airport last week.

The Clayton County-owned, Hampton-based airport along with the Atlanta Motor Speedway and other parts of Henry County looked like war zones after severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, remnants of Tropical Storm Cindy, tore through the area July 6.

Clayton County Commission chairman Eldrin Bell said he is waiting for a report from Clayton County Fire Chief Alex Cohilas and Wayne Patterson, the county's transportation director, detailing the cost of the damage Tara Field airport accumulated.

"I don't know yet what the damages are," said Bell, who prefers to review the report before speaking on how much damage the airport received, what those damages would cost or how they would be paid for.

Bell did say he visited Tara Field three times since the tornado, pointing out, "we had a lot of damage there and at the raceway."

At Tara Field, a hangar that was supposed to shelter expensive private jets was ripped asunder and the jets tumbled one over the other. Tara Field airport manager Gerry Adams said an airplane hangar adjacent to the office was also severely damaged.

"I think that's going to have to be torn down," said Adams, adding the tornado left the airport without electricity for about two days.

Adams said debris that were blown all over the field have been cleaned up by county employees and inmate labor.

The Federal Aviation Administration tower located at Tara Field is only used during AMS races where 250 to 300 aircraft lands and is stored on the property.

Despite last weeks events, Adams said Tara Field still had to maintain its normal operations of selling airplane fuel, landing and taking off planes.

"We're totally in business as far as that goes," Adams said.

The National Weather Service said the bowl shape of AMS helped the tornado form and it eventually remained on the ground for about four miles, also hitting Tara Field, which is just west of the speedway.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service's Peachtree City office said the tornado was a category F-2, which typically have wind speeds of 113 mph to 157 mph.

Smaller tornadoes also hit other parts of Hampton, the residential area behind the Wal-Mart Supercenter of Ga. Highway 20/81 near exit 218 off Interstate 75 and the Kelleytown community.