Local News

February 1, 2013

Graves: ‘An amazing amount of damage’

Touring the storm damage in Gordon County Thursday was very reminiscent of the devastation witnessed in Flintstone, Ringgold, Trenton and Gordon County almost two years ago after tornadoes swept through those areas, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, said.

Graves said he toured Gordon County after a tornado struck Wednesday, and what he witnessed was “an amazing amount of damage” but thankfully didn’t include loss of life. No one was killed in Gordon County, but one person was killed in a tornado in Adairsville the same day.

The EF 3 tornado was 400 yards wide and took a 24.5-mile path from Bartow through Gordon counties, according to the National Weather Service.

Graves said that while his family wasn’t hurt, many people he knows lost or had damage to their homes. Two of his children were at Sonoraville Middle School huddling in the hallways while his wife and another child did the same thing at Red Bud Elementary. Despite the trying time, area residents are still showing resiliency and strength, he said.

“A lot of friends and neighbors of ours are out in their front yards picking up their lives,” he said.

Graves’ website, tomgraves.house.gov, is being updated with information about the tornados and assistance. His district office number in Dalton is (706) 226-5320.

Dalton Fire Department Deputy Chief Gary Baggett said several people from the department went to Gordon County where the tornado hit to help search homes from door to door to confirm everyone who lived there was accounted for or not trapped in the rubble.

“We searched several streets with heavy damage,” he said. “Most roads were impassable. We did a lot of walking.”

Fortunately, he said, his group didn’t find anyone trapped. Several of the emergency responders who did go were part of a regional group specially trained in search and rescue, he said.

“This was a pretty big incident, and some of the areas we were in on Dews Pond Road area were as bad as the Ringgold area (after a tornado hit in April 2011),” he said.

There are numerous organizations and individuals trying to help.

Local Salvation Army volunteers have been helping in Calhoun, organizers said. According to a press release, the organization was planning to feed at least 300 people Thursday night and provide food, hydration and “emotional and spiritual care.” The release stated donations such as clothing and furniture are not being accepted now but can still be donated to the Salvation Army for its day-to-day work. The organization uses proceeds from sales from donated items in its stores to assist people in need.

According to The Daily Tribune News in Bartow County, that county’s local United Way has a relief fund for distributing monetary contributions directly to the Adairsville tornado victims who qualify. Gordon County’s government has set up a website for volunteers to visit, www.gordoncounty.org/tornado.

Chuck Payne with the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice in Murray County said he and fellow office staff members Karen Ballew and Danielle Jones decided to help.

Payne’s friend in Adairsville, who is also helping with volunteer efforts, said those affected need water, baby wipes, dust masks, diapers, tarps, first aid supplies, trash bags and cleaning supplies. Payne’s group coordinated with the Chatsworth Bi-Lo to call attention to those needed items.

Once enough donations are collected, Payne said he will to deliver the items.

“Tomorrow it could be us, and this is our responsibility to help our neighbors,” Payne said. “I would just encourage everybody that this is our opportunity. I’m a guy who tries to live by my faith, and this is what my faith calls us to do. We understand that it might not be our family, but it’s somebody’s family that’s been severely hurt by this.”

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