Ben Hill County storms pack a punch - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Ben Hill County storms pack a punch

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By Len Kiese - bio | email

BEN HILL COUNTY, GA (WALB) - South Georgia can't seem to catch a break from severe weather. We got hit again Monday afternoon.

Ben Hill County is still recovering from at least a half million dollars in damage from recent heavy rain and flooding. That county took the brunt of powerful severe storms Monday.   

It didn't take long for the chainsaws to begin in Ben Hill County but it was the quick sights and sounds of the afternoon storms that will stand out from even the loudest equipment.

"Oh yeah," said Pilma Portivent, "I think we got the edge of a tornado."

Portivent admits she was scared when the wind and hail blew past her home on Jeff Davis Highway. When it blew over, she watched and listened some more as a tree snapped and popped, inching closer to her home.

It was the same scene everywhere as trees fell over several roads in the city and county.  They brought dangerous power lines down with them. Road crews spent the afternoon getting them out of the way.

"We've had a double punch in the past two weeks," said Tim Kegebein with the Ben Hill County Road Department.

A house on Chattahoochee took a huge punch and was demolished by a tree. The roof is now on the ground. "We've had approximately four tornadoes touch down. That's not confirmed from the National Weather Service but we have four different paths of problems," said Ben Hill County EMA Director Jason Miller.

Much of the damage can be seen on Central Avenue where there are more downed trees and power lines.  A huge tree covers the median and dozens of bricks litter the road where wind tossed them from a business.

"Right now GEMA is here and we're doing some assessments so we can find out what all is going on at this time," said Miller.

Structural damage is everywhere.  Five pine trees in a row came down on Building Products Direct on Oconee Street. The roof on Elijah Shelton Junior's home ripped off in a matter of seconds. "The only thing I had a chance to do was grab something and lock it over my head," said Shelton.

"I couldn't see anything," said James Martin.  "It just started rocking with the wind. It was scary." Martin looked for shelter under an old gas station awning.  That shelter ending up being lifted by the wind to the other side of the road.  Part of it pinned his truck in place.

"I was just terrified. I just knew I was going to be lifted up and taken away," said Martin.

Luckily he wasn't injured and there are no reports of any other injuries, but the county sure did take a beating from the weather.  It will take some time to heal.

Representatives from the National Weather Service will be in Ben Hill County Tuesday to confirm whether tornadoes caused the damage. Emergency management officials will also do a flyover Tuesday morning to assess the damage.  

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