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Local storms all bark, no bite

But across the South, 3 die, scores injured

POSTED: April 12, 2009 12:13 a.m.

A frightening Friday night storm that packed a wallop left behind little visible damage across Northeast Georgia, officials said Saturday.

About six homes in south-central Forsyth County were damaged by trees downed by high winds, forcing homeowners to evacuate for the night, Forsyth County Fire Department spokesman Jason Shivers said. There were no injuries.

Contrary to reported sightings of funnel clouds, no tornadoes are believed to have touched down in this part of the state, weather service officials said.

The National Weather Service late Saturday confirmed tornado damage in Pickens and Chattahoochee counties.

Shirley Lamback, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Peachtree City office, said that surveyors with that office determined there were no tornados in Forsyth County Friday after conferring with local emergency management officials on Saturday.

A cluster of homes in a cul-de-sac on Bay Circle off Pilgrim Mill Road were slammed by hardwoods and pines brought down by high winds between 7:30 and 8 p.m. Friday, Shivers said. The trees damaged some roofs and also caused damage to nearby boat docks and boats on Lake Lanier, he said.

In Hall County, there was surprisingly little damage, Emergency Management Manager and Fire Chief David Kimbrell said Saturday.

Hall county officials who gathered at the emergency management center got only a scattering of calls reporting trees down in roads, and no calls for fires or wrecks that were expected, he said.

A 911 operator at the Banks County 911 center said there was little to no damage from the storm in that county, where several tornado warnings were issued Friday.

Elsewhere in the state, Ken Davis of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency said Saturday that a nursing home in Richmond County had its roof destroyed, with patients being moved to hospitals in the area. He said there were no reports of injuries.

He said GEMA also had reports of homes destroyed or damaged in Burke, Putnam, Terrell, Crisp, Columbia, Wilcox and Hancock counties. Davis said there were some injuries, but no deaths reported.

But other Southern states didn’t fare as well after Friday’s storms rolled through the region.

In Murfreesboro, Tenn., National Weather Service officials say a preliminary report shows an EF3 tornado tore a 15-mile path through the university town of about 100,000 with winds as high as 165 mph.

Deputy City Manager Rob Lyons said 42 homes were destroyed, 140 were damaged and 71 were affected but habitable. Several thousand customers were still without power Saturday.

More than 40 people were injured. Seven people were in critical condition Saturday afternoon, said Rutherford County Emergency Medical Services director Randy White.

The storm system is blamed for three deaths across the region.

Reports of destruction were widespread across the Southeast Friday, with funnel clouds also spotted in Kentucky and Alabama and devastating winds, huge hail and heavy rain reported in Georgia and several other states.

In South Carolina, a driver trying to avoid storm debris in the eastern part of the state was killed Friday, state Emergency Management Division spokesman Derrec Becker said.

On Thursday night, a black funnel cloud packing winds of at least 136 mph descended on the western Arkansas hamlet of Mena, killing at least three, injuring 30 and destroying or damaging 600 homes.

There, emergency officials are trying to collect ice chests and tarps to prepare for another round of storms projected to hit the area today. Crews have already used 1,000 tarps to cover damaged roofs, and workers are struggling to keep perishables refrigerated because power is still out in Mena.

The storms come on the heels of several inches of rain to fall in the past weeks, which has caused Gov. Gov. Sonny Perdue to ask for a presidential disaster declaration covering 33 Georgia counties struck by severe weather and floods.

Perdue also issued an executive order Friday declaring a state of emergency in 17 additional counties affected by heavy rains and storms that have passed through Georgia since March 27.

Previously, 16 counties were included in the governor’s order because of damage to a large number of roads, bridges, drainage systems, waste treatment facilities and other infrastructure.

Initial damage assessments by local, state and federal teams also revealed that more than 600 homes were damaged over widespread areas of the state.

A presidential declaration would provide assistance to public programs in 30 counties, and individual assistance in 18.

Staff writer Stephen Gurr contributed to this report



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