Major tornado relief effort continues - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Major tornado relief effort continues

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Miller County-- More than 200 structures damaged, and more than $12 million. Those are the staggering damage estimates after a tornado tore through Southwest Georgia Tuesday.

Victims are cleaning up the remnants of their homes, emergency crews are working overtime, and relief organizations are relentless.

The tornadoes that ripped through Miller and Seminole counties on Tuesday are over. "It kind of looks like a war zone," said Miller Co. EMA Director Billy Rathel.

But the cleanup is just beginning. Local emergency management agencies are spearheading the operation. "EMA for the last several days has been out in the field doing damage assessment, looking for the immediate needs of the people," Rathel said.

It's too soon to put an exact dollar figure on the damage. The state insurance commissioner has had to put his assessment on hold until next week. "He had to stop due to the roads being bad, and they were getting bogged down a lot."

Officials say 150 houses were damaged in Miller County, 24 of them were destroyed. Also in Miller County, there were 10 injuries.

The tornadoes caused millions of dollars worth of damage in Miller County, but they also caused widespread destruction in Seminole County. "I don't know how many millions of dollars worth of damage we've seen to agriculture. But it would be in the millions for sure," said Seminole Extension Agent Rome Ethredge.

Power crews are still working to restore electricity in both counties. "It's been terrible," said Three Notch Power Foreman Bobby Moulton.

They say it could take up to a month until everybody is back on line, no thanks to new rounds of bad weather. "About the time it got dry enough to where we could get to anything, it started raining again. So we're staying bogged down about as much as we're doing anything else," said Moulton.

One person was killed in Seminole County, 34-year-old Mary Burrington. Eight other people were injured. Also, 24 homes were damaged, seven of them were destroyed. The roads in both counties are open, but there are still a lot of hazards.

Emergency crews say to stay away if you can, because that will help them help you. "That's why we don't go home until we just can't go anymore," said Moulton. "In a small community like this, you know everyone. And when they hurt, you hurt."

There are more than 15 different emergency agencies from all over the region helping in both counties. The Red Cross is setting up a disaster relief center in the city of Colquitt. It's located at the Family Resource Center on Pine Street.

You can get more information by calling the EMA's damage assistance line at 229-758-1005.

posted by dave.miller@walb.com