Tornado death toll rises to 2 in Bartow County Ga., as storm cleanup continues

Tornado death toll rises to 2 in Bartow County Ga., as storm cleanup continues

February 6th, 2013 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

Sue Neal, left, walks around her tornado damaged home in Gordon County, Ga., Tuesday with her fiance, Frank Smith. A massive cleanup effort continues in the rural neighborhood nearly four miles east of Interstate 75 at Calhoun.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.


In Gordon County, information on available help, donation items needed and other services is at and In Gordon, a donation drop-off is set up at the old Big Lots store on state Highway 53, behind the Starbucks. Red Cross shelters are at Sonoraville Recreation Center on Fairmount Highway in Calhoun, and Manning Mill Youth Center in Adairsville in Bartow County.

The death toll rose to two this week in Bartow County, Ga., as cleanup continued there and in Gordon County after last Wednesday's 160 mph tornado that destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes.

Bartow County authorities said Adairsville resident Brenda Mulkey, 48, died Monday from storm-related injuries, The Associated Press reported. Anthony Raines, 51, also died in the tornado.

In Gordon County, Plainview Road resident Sue Neal was among property owners still digging out of the rubble Tuesday just south of Calhoun, Ga.

"They'd found my Social Security card 26 miles away," said Neal, 51, who lives with her 24-year-old son, Justin.

Her damaged home, purchased in August 2012, lies about 200 yards south of Fairmount Highway in the middle of the tornado's path.

"Right now, we're waiting on the engineer to tell us whether it's structurally sound enough so we can build back," she said. Neal said most rooms of the house were heavily damaged but her kitchen escaped almost unscathed.

She noted many of her neighbors had it just as bad or worse.

Last Wednesday morning, Neal and her fiance, Frank Smith, were on the way to a birthday party in Rome, Ga., at Smith's mother's house, she said.

It was Smith's 56th birthday.

"It looked stormy but it didn't look that bad, but as we got into Adairsville on [state Highway] 140, we noticed that cars were flashing their lights at us," Neal said. The pair already had spotted the funnel cloud and were trying to get back to Plainview Road.

"By the time we had actually gotten back, it had done hit here," she said.

Gordon County Administrator Randall Dowling said preliminary reports show about 500 houses affected.

"We're still picking up debris. The assessment teams are doing their thing," Dowling said.

"We're also requesting declaration of federal disaster to trigger federal assistance," he said. That request will have to wait for assessments, he said.

Meanwhile, Dowling said debris removal has been surprisingly difficult and expensive.

"We're doing it every day, but it just seems to multiply," he said. "Debris removal is our biggest concern."

Keith King, information technology specialist with Gordon County, said help for storm victims is streaming in from national organizations and local and church groups such as Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief.

"This past Saturday, we had approximately 600 volunteers that checked in at the checkpoint at Sonoraville High School," he said. "That doesn't include all the hundreds of volunteers that churches were able to get together."

He said "unofficial" efforts probably doubled the number of people helping storm victims.