ADAIRSVILLE, Ga. - There will be school in Adairsville Thursday. Just like any other day.
But nothing will be the same for a while in the Bartow County town that is devastated by what appears to be a huge tornado. WSB Radio Meteorologist Kirk Mellish says "based on our new dual-polarization doppler radar an early estimate is the twister was around an EF-3 on a scale of 0-5, the tornado lifted debris to 21,000 feet as seen on the radar scans".
One man is dead after the tornado ripped through northwest Georgia Wednesday. A state of emergency is in effect in Bartow and Gordon Counties. More than 100 homes are damaged and 17 people are hurt.
“It looks like a war zone,” an Adairsville man told News/Talk WSB.
“There is overturned cars,” said another man who was trying to get around Hwy 140. “Lots of downed trees.”
One of those trees fell on top of 51-year-old Anthony Raines’ home on Poplar Springs Road. He did not make it out alive, the Bartow County coroner said.
“We tried to help him, but we couldn’t get the tree off the trailer,” a neighbor told Channel 2 Action News.
Despite the devastation, students will be going to school today in Adairsville.
Bartow County Schools Superintendent John F. Harper posted a statement on the school system’s website.
We are devastated with the damage caused by the tornado today. I believe we should provide an opportunity for our students to attend school (Thursday). The elementary and middle schools currently have power and we are being told that the high school will have power by midnight. School will be in session at both the elementary and middle schools (Thursday). I truly hope the high school will have power by school time (Thursday). However, should parents feel their child should remain home to help or that they believe they would safer at home, please keep them with you. The absence will be considered excused.
A Channel 2 Action News crew recorded the tornado as it touched down in downtown Adairsville.
The Daiki Corp. plant on Adairsville Road is flattened. A nearby bank has slight damage, but it could have been worse. An employee’s car was thrown from the front parking lot to the back of the bank.
“That sounded like a train,” Dorothy Wilkey told her grandchildren and daughter-in-law as the tornado hit Adairsville at midday. “I’ve never, in my entire life, experienced something like this.”
Drivers at a nearby truck stop say they came face-to-face with the monster.
“When I pulled over, the next thing I know, it sucked me in and it threw my truck,” Richardson said.
I-75 was shutdown in both directions because of trees and cars that were thrown across the interstate.
“It is raining like hell out here,” News/Talk WSB’s Richard Sangster reported after the storm hit. “It’s was a torrent. “
Georgia Fire Safety and Insurance Ralph Hudgens will be touring the hardest hit areas Thursday morning.
Hudgens tells WSB he is flying back from a conference in Florida to assess the damage.
“We are telling people right now to contact their insurance companies to the adjusters can go out and assess and give them an early claim,” Hudgens told WSB’s Jennifer Griffies.
Hudgens says they'll begin with a fly over in Calhoun around 10:30 a.m. Thursday. They'll also tour on the ground and plan to also tour Adairsville.
Bartow County Emergency management said it has set up a triage command post on Cherry Street and Highway 41. An emergency shelter has been set up at Manning Mill Road gym near Adairsville for those displaced by the tornado, and the Red Cross has set up a shelter for Wednesday night at the Manning Mills Recreation Center on Manning Mill Road.
Law enforcement from several neighboring counties, including Floyd, Paulding, Chattooga and Gilmer counties, arrived late Wednesday to assist Bartow officials. Cpl. Ashley Henson with the Paulding County Sheriff’s Office said nine from his agency planned to work overnight, helping enforce the dusk-to-dawn curfew. Henson was paired up with a Bartow County deputy to patrol areas, making sure anyone still needing assistance was able to get it.
Thousands of Georgians were still without power Wednesday night. Georgia Power said almost 15,500 customers were without electricity across the state, including 500 in metro Atlanta, 4,400 in northwest Georgia and 3,900 in east Georgia as of 9 p.m. Georgia’s electric membership cooperatives said about 11,000 of its customers in west and north Georgia without power at 7 p.m. That number was down from 14,000 earlier in the day.
The Georgia State Patrol said it worked 83 crashes between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday at the height of the fierce weather, but the authorities did not know how many of the accidents were weather-related. The crashes left 33 injured but no fatalities.