As tornadoes ravage America, Ashburn residents remain thankful - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

As tornadoes ravage America, Ashburn residents remain thankful

May 28, 2008

Ashburn--  2008 is shaping up to be one of the deadliest and most active tornado years ever. With hurricane season about to start, things could just get worse.

In only five months this year, tornadoes have killed 110 Americans. That's the highest number for a full year since 1998. On average twisters kill 62-people a year. Official numbers are only in for January and February when 232 tornadoes touched down. The average for those two months is only 59.

It's been bad in Georgia also with a record of more than 465-million dollars in tornado damage just to insured property already this year. On Wednesday, Governor Sonny Perdue requested a federal disaster declaration for Cherokee County. 

The county was hit by a tornado that damaged more than 1,000 homes last Tuesday. On Mother's Day, 20 tornadoes touched down around the state.  It's the second worst one-day outbreak ever.

Despite all those tornadoes, South Georgia has been pretty lucky this year. But in December Ashburn was hit by a tornado with winds that reached more than 100-miles per hour. That tornado was 125 yards wide. In it's path, at least four mobile homes were destroyed and dozens of buildings were damaged.

That Saturday night in December is hard to forget.

"I didn't know what to think. I was so scared," said Arbelia Taylor. Arbelia Taylor was both scared and in the dark that night.

"It happened so quick," said Taylor. The quiet darkness let her hear everything clearly. "It just bam!  It hit the house and struck all the way across," said Taylor.

And that strong tornado went all across Ashburn. It hit Shirley Teague's home on Shealy Street. "So amazing. I had never experienced anything like that before," said Teague.

The experience will always be a reminder thanks to the pictures she has to prove it all. "That's my fence. My whole back fence was flat," said Teague while looking at photos.

Not only was her fence flattened but her utility shed was flipped over and destroyed.  Lines were down.  Even a car in the driveway got damaged. "And two or three trees had fell on my house," said Teague. That was the biggest loss.  The whole roof had to be replaced.

"It was in the thousands of dollars," said Teague.

Despite the expensive losses, Teague is thankful. "The Lord was really watching over Turner County that night," said Teague.

Although you still see some repairs taking place around town, things have changed a lot since that night. Most damaged buildings are back to normal or torn down. And most residents would agree with Taylor-- it's something they don't want to see happen again.

"I hope not. I hope not," said Taylor.

This tornado was enough to prove what severe weather can do and it's enough to remember for a lifetime.   One man was killed in the December tornado. A semi-truck driver died after the wind blew his truck off Interstate-75 and into a ditch.  

City Manager Ben Taylor says the damage including debris removal added up to about $100,000. Two months after that tornado, another strong storm system came through Ashburn causing damage.  Taylor says that damage was minimal.    

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