PEMBROKE, Ga. — Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief workers reacted quickly to violent storms that were blamed for the deaths of at least three people across the South.
In Pembroke, a chainsaw crew made up of local church members was helping to clear fallen trees and debris from homes while watching the skies for additional storms. A suspected tornado had blown through the community Tuesday evening, killing one woman and injuring several others.
The National Weather Service said the severe weather covered a three-state area that included the cities of Atlanta; Birmingham, Alabama; and Knoxville, Tennessee.
Tuesday’s storms were blamed for killing people in Louisiana and Texas.
Louisiana state police said Gene Latin, a 65-year-old correctional officer, was killed early Tuesday when he crashed into a tree that had fallen across a highway as storms blew through Webster Parish. And in east Texas, 71-year-old W. M. Soloman died when storm winds toppled a tree onto his home in Whitehouse, said Mayor James Wansley.
In Bryan County, about 30 miles west of Savannah, a woman was found dead Tuesday night amid the shredded wreckage of her mobile home in the unincorporated community of Ellabell, said Bryan County Coroner Bill Cox.
“It was just completely ripped to pieces,” Cox said Wednesday. “It’s like it exploded.”
Cox said the dead woman’s husband was taken to a hospital with injuries. He did not give her name, saying relatives were still being notified.
A motorist’s cellphone video taken in Bryan County showed a large funnel cloud crossing Interstate 16 as drivers braked and pulled to the side of the roadway.
In the county seat of Pembroke, large sections of roof got torn off the courthouse and the entryway to a government building across was demolished. Several people in nearby neighborhoods were injured as their homes were damaged, said Matthew Kent, a Bryan County government spokesperson.
Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief Director Dwain Carter said chaplains had been dispatched along with he chainsaw crews to minister to survivors.
“There are some neighborhoods that are flattened,” Carter said. “There are other neighborhoods that have tree and roof damage. We’re seeing neighbors helping neighbors, and that’s what you want to see. That’s what America was founded on.
Carter said Disaster Relief also has dispatched a shower unit so that emergency workers and local residents will have a way to clean up after long days working on the community’s recovery.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp toured the destruction Wednesday and said it was fortunate the twister did not stay on the ground very long, or the damage and loss of life would likely have been much worse. Places where it did touch down, he said, got hit hard.
“It is literally total devastation for some homes,” Kemp said. “We walked through a house where there’s no wood left on that house. It’s nothing but a foundation with a water heater sitting there.”
In South Carolina, about a dozen homes were destroyed or heavily damaged Tuesday in rural Allendale County. Tractors and other equipment were flipped and twisted on a number of farms in South Carolina’s least populated county. Other storms caused damage to solar panels near Bowman and flipped vehicles and shopping carts in a Walmart parking lot in Manning.
National Weather Service forecasters planned to survey damage from several possible tornadoes in Georgia and South Carolina, but said that effort could be interrupted by the potential for more storms Wednesday.
In Alabama, the weather service said it was sending survey teams to examine potential tornado damage in the Wetumpka area.
More than 7,000 customers in Texas and more than 3,000 in Georgia remained without power Wednesday afternoon, according to PowerOutage.us, which tracks outages nationwide.