Dozens of Georgia businesses and houses damaged by tornado

Dozens of Georgia businesses and houses damaged by tornado

December 24th, 2011 by Kevin Hardy in News

An oak tree at a home off South Hughes Street in Rome, Ga., was damaged by winds that blew through the area Thursday. Electricians and tree removal companies worked in the area Friday to remove trees and to restore power in the area.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

An EF-2 tornado wreaked havoc across Floyd County, Ga., Thursday evening, damaging dozens of houses and businesses.

The National Weather Service confirmed the tornado after completing an aerial assessment Friday with local emergency management officials. Weather Service officials said a survey team visited Gordon County on Friday afternoon and determined that an EF3 tornado was responsible for destroying one home there and damaging several others near Calhoun.

Meteorologist Mike Leary, with the weather service's Peachtree City, Ga., office, said crews still were assessing storm damage in Floyd County on Friday afternoon. He said more tornado touchdowns in Gordon and other counties could be confirmed today.

In Floyd County, the twister touched down at 4:55 p.m. and reached speeds of 125 mph, Leary said. The tornado, 20 yards wide, moved along an eight-mile swath.

The storm left 23 houses destroyed and 130 damaged, said Floyd County Emergency Management Director Scotty Hancock. Thirty-four businesses were damaged and six destroyed, he said.

The storm blew the roof off a building on the campus of Rome's Shorter University. It knocked over 35 power poles and broke 70 spans of wire in Floyd County.

Three minor injuries were reported.

Hancock said most homes saw partial damage, such as blown-away roofs or fallen trees.

"It wasn't as powerful as some we've seen in the past," he said. "But it did do a lot of damage."

Thousands of Floyd County residents were still without electricity Friday evening, he said, as power lines remained down throughout the area. Hancock said officials were asking residents to avoid travel as much as possible because of dangerous structures and power lines.

"It's just unfortunate right here around the holidays that something like this would happen," he said.

While tornadoes can strike at any time, Hancock said December is an unusual month for such a storm. He said high temperatures, which reached 71 degrees Thursday, created instability in the air.

A Red Cross shelter opened at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Rome, though only one family sought refuge and none stayed overnight.

The tornado touched down in an unincorporated area of Floyd County near Wilkerson Road. It entered the west side of Rome and went through Summerville Park before exiting the northeastern part of the county near Buttram Road.

Authorities say at least seven people were injured across Georgia Thursday as powerful storms roared across the state.

North Georgia Electric Membership Corp., which serves about 98,000 customers in seven Northwest Georgia counties, reported that more than 3,000 customers lost power in Gordon County overnight.

By 3:30 p.m. Friday, only 100 customers were still without power. Spokeswoman Laura Sparks said crews expected to wrap up all repair work by Friday evening.

Sparks said storms caused 17 broken poles and numerous fallen power lines throughout the cooperative's service area.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.