ADEL — An elderly Georgia Baptist couple lost their lives in the Sunday morning tornado which touched down here around 3 a.m. They are the first two confirmed deaths among the Georgia Baptist family following the heavy storms that ripped through South Georgia over the weekend.
The couple, members of First Baptist Church of Nashville, died when a large tree crashed through their home as the tornado passed through on Jan. 22. Another couple, members of the same church, lost their home in the storm.
Church secretary Vickie Vincent described the last 48 hours as “a very, very devastating weekend for us,” referring to the worst round of storms since 1993. The parents of the young couple who lost their home also sustained heavy damage to their property, she added.
Pastor Keith Stewart said the loss was “sad and shocking. You just don’t expect to lose members like that.”
He added that several Nashville homes were “wiped off the face of the planet with three or four of our members homes sustaining significant damage; they will most likely need to be bulldozed.”
The church is just a short distance “as the crow flies” from the Adel mobile home park where the majority of the deaths occurred.
15 deaths in South Georgia
As of this morning there are at least 15 deaths in South Georgia, seven confirmed in Adel following the tornado’s leveling at least 20 of the 96 homes in a mobile home park. Later Sunday afternoon an additional four residents were killed when a suspected tornado struck east Albany where another 50 were injured.
Valdosta Baptist Association Director of Missions Mike Broadwater reported that First Baptist Church of Adel has opened as a shelter but pastor Bill Marlette has been unable to provide details due to demands on his time.
Joey Taylor, recently elected second vice president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, said he had never lived through such a storm.
Fortunately, no members of his congregation – Springhead Baptist Church in Adel – were injured but some suffered physical damage. The church was also spared any wind or flying debris damage.
This morning he was visiting deacon and long-time member John Henry Surrency and surveying the extensive damage to his property.
“John Henry was perhaps 150 yards off the path of the tornado. His late mother’s adjacent home was completely destroyed and a nearby resident’s brick home was reduced to rubble.
First Vice President Joey Taylor of Adel: “There is debris everywhere”
“I grew up in South Georgia but I’ve never personally experienced anything like this in my life … it’s always been something I watched on TV. It’s unreal to see huge pine trees snapped in two like twigs; there is debris everywhere.
“To be standing inside Ground Zero is unbelievable,” he added.
Taylor said he and his family stayed up late Saturday night and into Sunday morning monitoring weather reports and went to bed around 2 a.m. They were awakened about an hour later with the tornado warning on his cell phone.
“I moved my family into the hall in the center of our house and covered ourselves and prayed as we waited out the storm. We returned to bed and were awakened a second time around 6:30 a.m. and hunkered down a second time; we were fortunate,” he stated.
Disaster relief chaplains enrollee to Adel, Albany
Stuart Lang, disaster relief coordinator for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, reported that two chaplains were enroute to Adel and two to Albany to provide counseling as needed. Disaster relief teams will not be mobilized until local search and rescue efforts have been completed, he said.
Lang noted that he expected Georgia Baptists will be able to minister in Albany before the Adel area, based on contact with local officials. A “windshield survey” team is already enroute to Albany, a procedure where trained volunteers survey damage and report on what types of assistance would be anticipated.
The Index is following this story and will provide updates as they become available.