APSU looks back 20 years at infamous 1999 tornado
(Posted Jan. 22, 2018)
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Twenty years ago, on Jan. 22, 1999, a powerful E3 tornado ripped its way across the Austin Peay State University campus, causing millions of dollars in damages that, according to the Tennessean, resulted in “the largest single property loss in state history.” When the winds finally stopped, hundred-year-old trees were uprooted, and iconic buildings such as Harned Hall stood in ruins.
In the weeks and months that followed, Austin Peay’s Office of Public Relations and Marketing worked to inform the community about the campus’ recovery efforts. Here’s a look at some stories to come out of that office during the Spring 1999 semester.
Jan. 23, 1999 – APSU president calls Sunday meeting for faculty, staff
Dr. Sal Rinella, then-APSU president, called a meeting in the Dunn Center of campus where he will outlined the schedule for resuming classes. Faculty and staff also learned procedures for retrieval of personal and professional belongings from their offices.
Jan. 25, 1999 – APSU ‘Operation Restoration’ is full steam ahead; classes resume Jan. 28
Officials at Austin Peay began implementing “Operation Restoration,” the theme of the team effort to get the University back to normal as soon as possible. Then-APSU President Sal Rinella called for “the strong Austin Peay spirit to show itself as the University restores the past and builds for the future.”
Jan. 27, 1999 – WAPX, APSU’s radio station, is on air 24 hours, seven days a week
Austin Peay’s campus radio station, WAPX-FM, returned to the air, broadcasting 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week. The station worked out of temporary quarters set up at the transmitter site.
Jan. 29. 1999 – APSU clock still chiming
Bill Coke, then-assistant director of building and grounds, assessed the Browning Building’s tower on Jan. 27 and found the clock and chimes still working.
“The winds took off the cupola on top of the building, but the clock is still operable,” Coke said. “When you think about the force (of the tornado), we were very lucky.”
Feb. 18, 1999 – APSU’s Bosendorfer piano damaged, another to be bought
Austin Peay’s Bosendorfer piano was destroyed in the tornado when high winds activated the sprinkler system inside the Music/Mass Communication Building. Gallons of water flooded the building, buckling the wooden stage in the concert hall and ruining the piano beyond repair.
Three of APSU’s piano faculty – Dr. Jeffrey Wood, Dr. Patricia Halbeck and Anne Glass – traveled to Vienna from Feb. 27-March 3 to pick out and purchase a replacement from the Bosendorfer factory showroom. Tennessee Risk Management state insurance defrayed the cost of faculty travel and the new piano.
March 3, 1999 – APSU hosts Sawyer Brown for benefit concert
Dancers filled the aisles, the crowd sang along and excitement filled the air as Sawyer Brown rocked the city of Clarksville during the “Tribute to the Spirit of Clarksville” benefit concert at Austin Peay on Feb. 26. About 4,000 people filled the APSU Dunn Center for the concert, which raised $13,342.86. The money was divided between APSU and the City of Clarksville.