March 2, 2007
Baker County -- More lives were lost in Baker County than anywhere else in Georgia in this storm system. Six people died there. Now, agencies from counties all over the state came to help assess the damage, and begin the cleanup process.
Reverend Richard McFarland says before yesterday this area was a new, attractive trailer-home park. "I tell you, it was real pretty and beautiful. I used to come down here and visit my son, his wife and my grandaughter."
McFarland got the devastating news early this morning that all three were killed by the tornado that destroyed their home. Seeing it first hand, reality set in. "Actually just seeing where it came in and just wiped my son... It wiped my whole family out."
Two homes were destroyed here, both families inside were killed. Baker County's EMA Director Andy Belinc says people there was hardly any warning. "When it showed up on the radar, the warning went out, and about a minute after the tornado came through."
The path of destruction here is somewhere from two to three miles. At least 30 homes and other buildings were either damaged or destroyed. There's hardly anything left of St. Matthews Missionary Baptist Church.
Its leaders are now left wondering about the church's future. "We don't know. We just.... We normally have service there Sunday so I hope we can. . . I don't know," said Deacon Acier Broadway.
This family was asleep in their house when the tornado suddenly struck. The house they bought less than a year ago is virtually gone, but amazingly everyone inside escaped unharmed. "We just held on, and he just led us out. I just. . . I don't know I can't even describe or explain," said the survivor.
Belinc says despite the devastation, the support from surrounding counties and state agencies has been overwhelming. "We just had a superb showing of people coming in to help us."
Fire departments from counties all over the state came. A canine search and rescue team from Ocilla searched for additional bodies this morning.
Even Governor Perdue came to the disaster area to survey the damage. Despite all that's lost he says Baker countians shouldn't give up hope. "Baker County's going to be here, and Baker County is going to stay here. All the resources in the state of Georgia. . . We're gonna gather round and take care of our own."
Right now that what the victims of this devastating storm are counting on.
Authorities aren't releasing the names of those killed until their positive of their identities. We do know among those killed were a few children.