3 tornadoes tear through south GA over the weekend - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

3 tornadoes tear through south GA over the weekend

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  The National Weather Service confirms three tornadoes touched down in south Georgia over the weekend in Lee, Randolph, and Quitman counties.

None of those tornadoes were very strong, but they did cause damage. Monday, crews continued to the clean up at the Leesburg Maintenance Garage and on Mossy Dell Plantation where hundreds of trees got knocked downed.

EMA officials say the tornado in Lee County only touched down in a few spots, but it was enough to cause some structural damage. Monday they're counting themselves lucky, because it could have been worse.

It was the sound of twisting metal as the Leesburg Maintenance Shelter was hoisted up by two cranes to free the vehicles trapped underneath in Saturday's storm.

"I just got them out, the equipment out, I haven't had time to look at it yet. The one truck I just bought last week," said Randy Kirby, Leesburg Maintenance Supervisor.

That newly purchased dump truck was the tallest, and the only thing holding the shelter up after the EF-zero tornado pulled the concrete footings out of the ground. At least once, the threat of collapse sent the crew dashing to safety. EMA says because the shelter was pitched to the left at about 90 degrees, it shows enough rotation to be a tornado.

"It very lightly touched down, even if you get a few hundred feet off either side of those three locations, we don't even see any small limbs or leaves down it was almost like very surgical, very pinpoint," said Chief James Howell, Lee County EMA Director.

The evidence was clear at Mossy Dell Plantation where timber experts marked trees that were snapped off half way up to have the rest taken down.

"With rotation you should have trees laying basically in any direction, not just with the storm path," said Howell.

Tall pines there were uprooted and tossed around like pick up sticks. Hundreds of trees were damaged hurting both the hunting area of the plantation and their timber crop, but county officials still call it fortunate.

"We're fortunate any time we don't have any injuries and that's what we have here," said Howell.

So while there's still a good bit of cleaning up to do, many are breathing a sigh of relief especially after witnessing mother nature's force.

The city of Leesburg leases the shelter from the County. There's not been a determination yet if the shelter will be replaced. They still need to check out the equipment, but say short of a few scrapes, nothing seems damaged.

Mossy Dell Plantation is still calculating its losses. An E-F zero tornado can pack winds between 65 and 85 miles per hour.

Two Lee County Schools were also in the path of destruction, but both were in good enough condition for classes Monday. Flashing was pulled from the top of Twin Oaks Elementary School on Old Smithville Road. A downed light pole was also cleaned up before school Monday morning. The flag was even ripped from the flag pole in the strong winds. At the Ninth Grade Academy on Highway 195, workers removed the twisted awning that was shoved up against the cafeteria window and checked the roof that was lifted up in the storm. On the inside there was just minor damage that was cleared before students arrived Monday.

"We had to do a little sweeping here and there just to pick up stuff that had fallen off a wall maybe from the jolt from something hitting the wall, but nothing on the interior so we were very fortunate there," said Dr. Jamie Horne, Ninth Grade Academy Principal.

Over spring break, which starts a week from Monday, they'll have more roof experts look at where the building's roof was lifted up and set back down in place. They hope the work can be done while students are out of the building.


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