Overnight storms tear through CSRA

March 2, 2007

Storms rolled through McDuffie and Warren Counties overnight, leaving severe damage in places. McDuffie County was hit by an F2 tornado. Gov. Perdue declared a state of emergency in nine Georgia counties, including McDuffie.

Damage in McDuffie and Warren Counties

Homes are smashed. Some people went to the hospital, and some folks have lost everything.

Experts from the National Weather Service office in Atlanta are in McDuffie and Warren County today surveying the damage to try and determine if it was caused by a swirling tornado, straight line winds, or a downburst.

Columbia County EMA Director Pam Tucker reports:

Georgia Forestry Commission Air Patrol is assisting with damage assessments in Warren and McDuffie County.

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports the City of Thomson in McDuffie County received possible tornado damage. The damage caused was on the north side of town and involved and still unknown number of homes destroyed, with many homes damaged by falling trees and limbs.

Environmental Protection Division (EPD) checked with the waste and waste water utility departments and their plants were not damaged and are operating normally, however due to the very heavy rains last night the waste water plant received an unusually high influent.

Bruce Tanner, McDuffie County EMA Director advises no fatalities or serious injuries reported. Five minor injuries were treated at a local hospital. Approximately 30 residences damaged, and five mobile homes destroyed. The power company is working to restore electricity; some gas lines have been shut down for leaks. Most roads have been cleared. The ARC is on the scene as is Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) and Public Health. A shelter was opened at the Baptist Church and had 14 persons at the peak, now down to two. Mr. Tanner requests a Damage Assessment Team on scene in the morning and wants them to link up at the Thomson Law Enforcement Center.

Damage at Fort Gordon

Columbia County EMA Director Pam Tucker reports:

Fort Gordon Army base had a large release of oil from an unknown source on the base which entered into the sanitary sewer and has hit the waste water treatment plant. Fort Gordon is attempting to remove what they can, but they likely will see a release from the outfall of oil and the plant will suffer severe impacts to its ability to treat the incoming sewage from the base.

Base personnel have already placed oil booms at the outfall to protect McCoy and Spirit Creeks.

Damage in South Carolina

The Weather Service also has damage reports from South Carolina. In Edgefield County, there are trees down and some damage to a mobile home. In Aiken County, numerous trees are down along Talatha Church Road, and trees are also down near the airport off Highway 1 North.

Damage elsewhere

The storms ripped through Alabama and Georgia before they arrived here. Nine people are reported dead in southwest Georgia.

In Sumter County, high winds hit the hospital, blowing out all the windows and tossing cars around in the parking lot. Around 50 patients inside had to be evacuated to other hospitals.

No one died in the hospital, but there were two deaths in that county.

Six people have been reported dead in Baker County in the Newton area.

Before the storm hit Georgia, it killed students at a high school in Enterprise, Alabama, in the southeast corner of the state.

The twister took off part of the roof and caused walls to collapse, some on the students who were taking shelter inside.

Crews searched the school and the nearby neighborhoods to see if there were any more victims.

Students say it was terrifying.

"It was so scary," said Kayla Todd. "Debris was flying everywhere and I got hit by a door."

Possible looting

One Warren County man is concerned that his four wheelers might have been stolen overnight.

"I'm hoping that it is somewhere within the family," he said. "Last night someone knew what it meant to us. We just bought them. Hopefully we'll come up with it."

Animals are also victims

Sometimes the victims of storms are not just on two legs. In McDuffie County, Korensa Tolbert spent the storm worrying about her 16 horses. She says the damage to her yard and home was extensive, but somehow, not only did the horses all survive, but they escaped with only cuts and bruises.

"Once it was safe to go outside, I just had no idea," she said. "Every fence on my 16 acres is completely destroyed. Three outbuildings are just gone. We don't even know where they are."

The horses are being treated for their injuries, but none of them are life-threatening.

Don't get scammed after the storm

If you've got storm damage, one local agency is urging you to be careful when it comes to hiring someone to fix your home.

Unfortunately, this is a time when victims can become victims all over again. Your home gets wrecked by storm damage, and an unscrupulous contractor comes along to take advantage of you by providing shoddy work and taking off with your money.

The Better Business Bureau says the best way to avoid this is just to slow down. Everyone wants to get things fixed as soon as possible, but by taking a little extra time, you could save yourself a lot of hassle.

Check your insurance policy and find out what your coverage will provide. Shop around for contractors, get several bids, and check references and licensing.

Don't give in to high-pressure scare tactics. These folks want your business. They'll wait on your decision.

Get a written agreement that outlines everything that will be done and includes prices.

And finally, do not pay in advance and do not pay in cash.

For insurance purposes, don't throw away any damaged property until the insurance company has a chance to come out and see it.

Be wary of people going door to door offering to fix your home. Most legitimate companies don't do this. Be especially wary of those asking for money up front for the services.

Major storm system

This was all part of a major storm system that brought thunderstorms and even snowfall from Minnesota to the Gulf Coast.


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