Dunwoody looks back on 20 year anniversary of fatal tornadoes th - CBS46 News

Dunwoody looks back on 20 year anniversary of fatal tornadoes that killed seven

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Source: Sybirud family Source: Sybirud family

It was during the early morning hours of April 9, 1998 when an F2 tornado ripped through the area, claiming seven lives in Georgia and leaving a disaster in its path.

The tornado caused unbelievable damage in Birmingham, Alabama, where the storm was rated an F5 tornado, killing 32 people. In Georgia, the storm was first sighted in Cobb County, where it caused significant damage. The funnel passed directly over the Perimeter Center before touching down in Dunwoody.

On Sunday, residents gathered to look back on what they call an unforgettable day.

The phrase 'Home Sweet Home' has a special meaning for the Sybirud family. Mike Sybirud was not in Dunwoody during the eraly morning hours of April 9, 1998 but a historic weather event sure was.

"I was in Richmond, Virginia and I had just started a new job and I was in my third month," said Sybirud. "Once you discover when you go through something like this is that all this stuff is just things and things can be replaced."

Sybirud got a call from his wife and daughter around 1 a.m. to let him know that they were both okay. But they also told him the family home was destroyed and the second story of the house was completely gone.

"Luckily they had been upstairs but they got downstairs just in time. As they hit the bottom of the stairs my wife said she could hear the roof coming off the house," continued Sybirud. "They ended up getting out of the house by breaking the garage door windows and climbing through them because all the doors were sealed shut from the pressure."

Even though Sybirud didn't experience the storm, he sure did when he returned. He remembers climbing over trees just to reunite with his family, who were waiting in a neighborhood that was unrecognizable.

"It was like a war zone and what I tell people now is, until you've seen something like this in person, you can't understand the scope and the scale of the devastation," Sybirud told CBS46 News. "I could only get so far and I started walking and I couldn't recognize anything and I walked right by the entrance."

The event was so significant for the family and the pictures the Sybiruds took are now inside a photo album to remind them of the devastation.

"Occasionally, the conversation comes up with people here in the neighborhood and then you start to reminisce about it," said Sybirud. "If you could rewind the tape and go back, I would take the old house and not have to go through what we went through."

A tree planting will take place Monday at 10 a.m. as part of an initiative to bring new trees back into Dunwoody, because tens of thousands were lost during the tornado. The event will be held at the Donaldson-Bannister historic property at 4831 Chamblee Dunwoody Road.

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