Sylvester storm could have been worse - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Sylvester storm could have been worse

December 6, 2005

Sylvester- It may have only affected a five-block stretch of downtown Sylvester, but yesterday's tornado caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

With a jail that's temporarily closed and several building with severe damage, residents are working overtime to get back to business as usual.

Less than 24 hours after a damaging tornado blew through downtown Sylvester, city crews had most roads open again. They spent the morning clearing limbs and debris from several others.

BellSouth linemen worked on new utility poles after high winds snapped about half a dozen at the intersection of West and Livingston Streets.

"I was just lucky I didn't get hurt seriously," Worth County Sheriff Freddie Tompkins says.

Tompkins is thankful the wind only blew out the windows of his SUV. It was just 10 feet from being crushed by the jail's communications tower. "When it fell down it's got a hole on top of our roof. It blowed all the tops off our vents and everything, and we just had water pouring in the jail," Tompkins says.

All 34 inmates remain in the Tift County jail and Tompkins says they'll likely stay there for at least two weeks. "With our inmates in Tift County's jail, it's going to make a big problem on having us run back and forth picking them up for court and making bond, getting out of jail and that kind of stuff," Tompkins says.

From atop the Worth County courthouse, Tompkins points out more damage along Kelly Street. "I had a two-car carport on the west side of the jail, it totaled it out. There's nothing left but the concrete."

The storm blew an oak tree on top of the roof of Golden Feed and Seed Company, tore away most of the roof at SunTrust Bank, ripped away much of the metal flashing on the courthouse roof.

About five employees were inside Napa Auto Parts when the tornado hit. "A pretty hectic ordeal," says NAPA's Jim Rimes. "The water just a bout destroyed everything. We covered it up as quick as we could," he said.

"Still remnants of the water on the floor, but it was a good inch deep in some areas," says retired division manager Jim Rimes. "That's where it lifted this roof up and threw it to the front of the roof up there."

Much of the building's roof is gone and a large portion of inventory is damaged, but workers are thankful they escaped injury. "See the way that glass went into that box. If that had been an employee that could have really been bad. Fortunately it's just a box, no damage there," Rimes says. "Maybe in a week or so we'll be able to get back to some sort of normalcy."

There was also some damage to the roof of the courthouse. County officials say repair crews will be in town to assess damage tomorrow.

Feedback: news@walb.com?subject=SylvesterTornadoTuesday

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