March 20, 2013

Two counties hit by tornado in Monday storm

By PHILLIP LUCAS, Associated Press

ATLANTA — A tornado and a system of severe thunderstorms that tore through Georgia Monday evening left a man dead in northwest Georgia and tens of thousands of people without power throughout the rest of the state Tuesday afternoon.

Polk County Coroner Trey Litesey confirmed that James Larry Agan died after a falling tree landed on his truck on the county’s northern edge during the Monday evening thunderstorm. Authorities were unsure of the man’s age.

Polk County Public Safety Director Randy Lacey said Agan’s son was also injured when the tree fell, and crews had reopened most of the approximately 30 roads that had been closed. Another woman was injured by falling sheet rock when a tree fell onto her house, Lacey said.

“We had 14 structures damaged and one was probably a total loss because a tree fell through it,” he said.

Just north of Polk County, the National Weather Service reported a store was destroyed and 12 homes were damaged between Cave Spring and Silver Creek, in Floyd County. Officials said power lines fell onto a vehicle on Padlock Mountain Road in Cave Spring. The National Weather Service reported six people in Floyd County suffered minor injuries in the storm.

About 100 miles south of Polk County, authorities in Meriwether and Pike counties Tuesday were cleaning up from a confirmed tornado.

“The peak winds that we estimate with this EF-2 tornado were about 120 miles per hour,” said Ryan Willis, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Peachtree City. Tornadoes range from EF-1 to EF-5 — which is the most severe.

The tornado touched down around 6:10 p.m. Monday in Meriwether County and traveled east into Pike County, Willis said, adding that the twister traveled about 13 miles and recorded a maximum width of about 300 yards.

The tornado hit a primarily rural area about 50 miles south of downtown Atlanta as thousands of trees toppled in the area, Willis said. Pike County Emergency Management Agency Director Jimmy Totten said the storm caused severe damage in the western and northern portions of the county and several barns and homes were damaged by falling trees and power lines.

The storm brought high winds and pelted some areas with large hail. Residents of Stockbridge, about 20 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta, took to Twitter Monday night posting photos of softball-sized hail that caused damage to cars, homes and other property.

Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens Tuesday said investigators in the consumer services division were standing by to assist consumers who were affected by the storm.

In a statement, Hudgens said vehicles damaged by hail are typically covered by the comprehensive and collision portions of insurance policies, and home roof damage is usually covered by homeowner’s policies. The commissioner urged consumers to keep accurate records of all repair-related expenses for insurance claims, and to avoid disposing of damaged property until after it had been examined by an insurance adjuster.

Georgia Power officials said 73,000 customers lost power Monday night as trees and power lines came tumbling down throughout the state, and about 15,950 customers were still without service Tuesday afternoon.

Forecasters are expecting another round of severe weather to affect parts of north Georgia later in the week.

On Thursday night, light snow will be possible across much of north Georgia as a fast-moving storm system moves into the area, according to weather service forecasts. No significant accumulations are expected, though the system could leave a dusting of snow in higher elevations, meteorologists said.