Irwin Co. moving toward recovery after Tuesday tornado strikes

Updated: Dec. 18, 2019 at 6:58 PM EST
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MYSTIC, Ga. (WALB) - According to the National Weather Service, an EF-2 tornado touched down in Irwin County Tuesday night, damaging 37 homes.

Irwin County EMA Director, Jerry Edwards, says out of those 37 damaged houses, 8 of them are at a total loss.

Irwin County EMA Director, Jerry Edwards.
Irwin County EMA Director, Jerry Edwards.(all cleared)

Edwards says he’s never seen this amount damage in Irwin County before but is happy everyone is alive and no one was hurt.

“Everybody was happy. I don’t know how you could be happy in a situation like that but they said they were happy because they were all still alive. No injuries, nothing like that," says Edwards.

One family that was home when the tornado hit said they ran to the bathroom, which is now left in shambles.

Irwin County tornado damage
Irwin County tornado damage(WALB)

The roof to their two children’s rooms was also ripped off by the storm.

Irwin County tornado damage
Irwin County tornado damage(WALB)

“It felt like it was around us and I went to the front door and I noticed it felt like a lot of pressure, maybe on the door. And then I felt water coming in. Not even a second after that, their room doors flew open so we jumped into the bathroom because there were no windows and laid on the floor and prayed and prayed,” Explained Ocilla resident Kim Taylor.

Kim Taylor, an Ocilla resident
Kim Taylor, an Ocilla resident(WALB)

She said they are grateful for the support they have received from their community.

Skywatch10 captures damage in Irwin County following severe weather

An EF-2 tornado ripped through Irwin County late Tuesday morning. WALB's Skywatch10 was there and captured the damage.

Posted by WALB News 10 on Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Homes were not only thing damaged from Tuesday’s severe weather.

Edwards says that a fire station and a church out in the county were also destroyed during the storm.

Despite the terrifying tornado that just passed through here a day ago, many church members are already coming together to plan to rebuild the Grace Baptist Church.

But many are also asking where will the church service be?

“As far as Sunday goes, I don’t know what we will do, it’s predicting heavy rains and we have no power,” Jerry Camp, a church member, said.

Camp said he still can’t believe the amount of destruction the tornado left.

Jerry Camp, a Grace Baptist Church member.
Jerry Camp, a Grace Baptist Church member.(Source: WALB)

He remembers where he was during the event.

“We were in Tifton and got a call an hour or so later,” Camp said.

Pastor Derrell Hampton said this loss is affecting everyone in the community but it is a disaster he had been prepared for.

“Heartbreaking. Unfortunately, though, I saw what the hurricane had done in Mexico Beach and I was a little more prepared for what I might see,” he said. “We are just assisting right now to see what all we are going to need to do. But you can see we have utter destruction.”

People in the community came to the church to see the massive damage the unforeseen EF-2 tornado caused.

Pastor Derrell Hampton
Pastor Derrell Hampton(Source: WALB)

“It’s crazy, I’ve never seen anything like this,” Lee Portivent, a Mystic resident, said. "Everything is tore up, even back towards Fitzgerald, it was messed up pretty bad on my way home from work.

Camp reflected on the loss the church suffered.

“We have lost the lunchroom and classroom, although the Christian school has been closed for about eight or 10 years now,” Camp added.

The church was created in 1986. It was both a public and private school at one point.

Jim Owens, a graduate of the church’s former school, saw his alma mater in pieces.

Damage at Grace Baptist Church in Mystic.
Damage at Grace Baptist Church in Mystic.(Source: WALB)

“That was our lunchroom,” Owens said. “That’s where we used to eat lunch at right there. The building right here that was the new building. It was added on I think in ’75 or so.”

Hampton said even though the church suffered severe damage, his faith is still strong

We have a great church here, we had a great church here. First thing when they called me and told how bad it looked, I said under my breath ‘the Lord giveth, The Lord taketh away, bless it be the name of the Lord,'”

Hampton said community members have been nothing but helpful and he appreciates their thoughts, prayers, kindness and generosity.

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