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Weather service: No tornadoes touched down in Northeast Georgia

POSTED: March 28, 2008 5:01 a.m.

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National Weather Service officials confirmed Sunday that two tornadoes touched down in Georgia as a result of severe thunderstorms Saturday. And today, meteorologists will investigate the possibility of a third tornado touchdown Saturday in southern Butts County.

Unconfirmed funnel cloud sightings were reported in Hall, Forsyth, Jackson and Banks counties Saturday, prompting National Weather Service investigators to review the reports.

Steve Nelson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, verified that one tornado touched down in Polk, Floyd and Bartow counties and another tornado touched down in Jefferson and Burke counties Saturday.

"Both Friday night and Saturday, there’s been a total of three confirmed, and we’re investigating one more tomorrow. It’s probably going to be a weak tornado if there was one at all," Nelson said of the possible tornado under investigation in Butts County.

"It did cause some interruption on I-75 that travels through western Butts County, with fallen trees blocking the highway," he added.

The two verified tornadoes Saturday took place less than 24 hours after a tornado ripped through downtown Atlanta Friday just before 10 p.m. with maximum wind speeds at 130 mph.

The National Weather Service did not confirm any tornado touchdowns during Saturday’s storms in Hall County.

Nelson said the first verified tornado initially touched down 4 miles northwest of Aragon in Polk County at 12:25 p.m. Saturday. At its maximum width, the tornado was a half-mile wide. The twister traveled 16 miles through Polk, Floyd and then Bartow counties before lifting about two miles south of Cartersville at 12:45 p.m.

The Polk County tornado registered as an EF-3 tornado on the Enhanced Fujita scale, with winds reaching between 136 and 165 mph.

One fatality and one serious injury was reported in Polk County as a result of the tornado. Another fatality also occurred in Floyd County due to tornado winds.

"It didn’t really hit any cities; it was mainly rural areas," Nelson said of the first verified tornado Saturday.

The second confirmed tornado touched down near Wrens in Jefferson County at 6:15 p.m. Saturday and traveled about 19 miles into Burke County, Nelson said.

The maximum width of the evening tornado registered a quarter-mile wide. It was determined to be an EF-2 tornado, with winds ranging from 111 to 135 mph.

No fatalities were reported as a result of the Jefferson County tornado.

Nelson said that although the Southeast’s tornado season is defined by the months of March and April, this past weekend’s rash of tornadoes is not typical.

"This was a little unusual for two days in a row with severe weather for this area," Nelson said. "It is the beginning of the peak of the storm season. We have a long way to go. It’s been an active season so far, and there could be more storms in the next month or two, just like we saw (Saturday)."

Nelson added that tornadoes in Georgia are not confined to the spring.

"It’s not one well-defined season by any means. There’s tornadoes here all year long. There’s just a slight peak in March and April," Nelson said.

Rachelle Dhabolt, supervisor of the Hall County 911 Center, said Hall County’s 12 severe weather sirens were activated according to protocol four times Saturday as soon as tornado warnings were issued.

Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said no injuries or major structural damage were reported in Hall County due to weekend storms.

Fallen trees and power lines seemed to be the brunt of the storm damage in Hall and surrounding counties, with some flooding at Downtown Mobile Home Park on McConnell Road at Atlanta Highway. Shane Reidling, owner of Downtown Mobile Home Park, said 22 trailers were flooded.

Roughly 8,000 Georgia Power customers in Hall County lost power Saturday, according to Georgia Power spokesman John Sell. However, officials confirmed that all power had been restored by 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

"We had some power lines down at Dawsonville Highway and McEver extension," Cagle said. "We had some trees down sporadically. If we had had some touchdowns, it could’ve been a whole lot worse."



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