Fitzgerald storm cleanup underway - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Fitzgerald storm cleanup underway

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

FITZGERALD, GA (WALB) -In Ben Hill County Emergency Management officials say more than 110 homes, 33 businesses and one church were affected or sustained damage by Monday's severe storm.

Only one person suffered a minor injury when a tree limb broke her car window during the height of the storm.

Yasman and Gregory Gather's home and car on West Suwanee Street were crushed when three big pine trees were uprooted by Monday's storms.

Yasman Gather said "The hail just started hitting the window. Boom, boom. The house just went to shaking. Me and my grandchildren and daughter jumped in the closet."

Dozens of trees were ripped out of the ground by the strong winds. The National Weather Service inspected Fitzgerald this afternoon, and said it was not tornadoes, but severe straight line winds of close to 90 miles an hour that caused all this damage.

EMA Director Jason Miller said "We figured out it's four different directions of wind travel right now."

One went across downtown, knocking down trees and electrical poles on Central Avenue. The Tax Commissioners office sustained major damage when the roof came off.

One block away the employees in City Hall ran to the vault for shelter.

City Administrator Henry Tyson said "The ladies ran in here and closed the door behind them. And they hid in this area."

Clerk Michelle Kirkland said "And it was loud. You could hear the hail and everything. We weren't in there that long."

Next door the winds ripped the roof off the Standard Supply Company. Even though power was still off, friends showed up to help Jim Parrott start repairs.

Parrott said "Some of these contractors came up and said where do you want to start."

Superior Court Judge Bobby Chasteen was one of the volunteers helping Parrott clean up.

Chasteen said "Everybody really needs building materials to get repairs done, so he's really the one who needs help first."

Today the clean up is underway with friends and volunteers helping get Fitzgerald back on it's feet.

 Parrott said "This is a great community. And this is a joint effort."

EMA officials say they estimate multi millions of dollars in damages, but feel fortunate that there was only one minor injury.

GEMA and National Weather Service inspectors surveyed Fitzgerald and Ben Hill County today.

Georgia Insurance  Commissioner John Oxendine flew over Fitzgerald for an inspection of the damage as well, and said it was obviously many millions of dollars.

Oxendine said "I have put the wind damage here in Fitzgerald at approximately two million dollars. That doesn't include infrastructure and it doesn't include the flood damage that they have had earlier over the weekend."

Oxendine said his office could help answer questions from storm victims, you can call 800-656-2298.

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