Witness saw twister as warnings sounded; damage reported at Wal-mart in Warner Robins

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Severe storms raking across Middle Georgia are blamed for significant damage in multiple counties Saturday afternoon.

As tornado sirens sounded, part of the roof ripped off the Wal-Mart on Booth Road, Houston County EMA Director Jimmy Williams said.

Water puddled up in the aisles of the store as emergency responders dealt with a gas leak, Williams said.

The damage was in the back of the building in the area of the auto care center. Three ambulances were out front of Wal-Mart as employees stood around.

The Warner Robins Police Department is asking people to avoid Booth Road, which is closed due to the damage.

On Windmill Court, most of the roof blew off a house with a family inside in the Harvest Point subdivision. Neighbors said no one was hurt in the home or anywhere else in the subdivision that they knew of. Two people in the neighborhood said they saw a funnel cloud and they said it was definitely a tornado.

There also were no confirmed reports of injuries at Wal-Mart.

A trained weather spotter reported a rain-wrapped tornado across Ga. 96 just west of Moody Road. An 8-inch tree limb hit the spotter’s vehicle as the twister crossed, according to preliminary damage reports.

According to scanner reports, a building was damaged at Robins Air Force Base and a tree is down on a house in Houston County near Lake Joy and Sandefur Road.

Roland Leach, of the Robins Public Affairs Office, said crews are making a sweep of the base properties and compiling a list of any possible damage.

Williams said from Perry northward to Bonaire there are numerous trees down.

On The Telegraph’s Facebook page, Rebecca Young posted a picture of a damaged fence near Mossy Creek Middle School in Kathleen.

The Houston County Sheriff’s Office reports multiple roads are blocked by downed trees and power lines. Traffic lights also are out due to power outages.

Parts of Monroe, Peach, Houston, Hancock Twiggs, Baldwin, Johnson and Laurens counties might have experienced tornadoes Saturday afternoon, according to radar-indicated warnings issued.

The severe storms brought hurricane force winds in isolated areas.

In Laurens County, numerous trees are down with the bulk of the damage west of Dudley north and south of Interstate 16, which is the same area as a radar-indicated tornado passed, according to the local emergency manager.

In Wilcox County, a 60 mph wind gust rocked a mobile home near Abbeville.

Another possible tornado is blamed for damage at the Upson County Airport where many trees are down and snapped about 2 miles to the southwest of The Rock.

The Monroe County EMA director reported a possible touchdown of a twister between Bolingbroke and Smarr, although that has not yet been confirmed.

“Either a tornado, or straight line winds,” Perry said. “I’ll be willing to bet we have shingles off houses and damage to small sheds.”

A large number of trees are down and blocking roads around Smarr in the Walden Road area to near King and Woodward roads.

Baldwin County Fire Rescue reported trees down and power outages near Coopers and Ga. 24 around Deepstep and the northwest section of the county.

In Upson County, the severe weather hit at about 11:20 a.m. with a possible twister damaging the Riverbend Restaurant on the Flint River.

Taylor County reported another possible tornado that damaged a mobile home and ripped shingles off roofs of buildings.

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado watch for conditions favorable for spawning severe weather in the southern half of Georgia through the afternoon.

The Byron Police Department reports their community came through the storms without reports of damage, but warned everyone to be on alert as two more bouts of severe weather could be possible Sunday.

Residents of Warner Robins subdivision feel fortunate

“Blessed” is the word several residents of Harvest Point subdivision in Warner Robins used when asked how they felt after the storm. At least two homes were substantially damaged and debris was scattered around the neighborhood, but no injuries were reported.

Antonio Rouse and his 13-year-old daughter hunkered down in a closet in their home on Hidden Creek Circle in Cedar Point. They heard the roof blowing off, and he figured his house was damaged beyond repair. But he said he and is daughter are fine.

“We were praying,” he said when asked what they were doing as the storm went over. “God be with me, that’s all I could think. I’m just blessed to be here.”

Andrew Winn said he was talking with his wife on the phone when he looked out side and saw what he described as definitely a tornado.

“I looked out and a funnel cloud was coming this way,” he said. “It was crazy.”

Lareese Benefield looked out his window as the storm blew over and he also said that what he saw was definitely a tornado. He said it skipped over his house and there was no damage. But it did destroy the wooden fence of his neighbor, Ricardo Williams.

“Blessed,” Williams responded when asked how he felt about what happened. “God was in the room with us.”

by Liz Fabian
JANUARY 21, 2017 9:39 AM

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Kyrie Wagner