Aerial photos of storm damage in Southern Floyd County
Staff storm photos - Thursday
8:45 p.m. Update: Floyd County police are patrolling the hardest hit areas of the county on the lookout for any possible looting and to keep people out of the way so rescuers can do their work. County police chief Bill Shiflett said they have officers in all areas with storm damage to prevent looting. They also are trying to prevent traffic problems caused by motorists who slow down to look at the damage. As of Thursday night, no problems had been reported by police.
7:45 p.m. Update: Allison Espino came home Thursday night. The 3-month old baby who survived a blow to her head after a tree went through her Brookwood Avenue home on Wednesday was released from Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga, said her father, Daniel Espino. She is expected to fully recover, he said.
6:30 p.m. Update: Cave Spring's Perry Farm pump station lost power, but Mayor Rob Ware said water customers did not lose service and Georgia Power is expected to have the electricity back on by Friday.
"We're in good shape in terms of supply," Ware said. "If the storm had happened before we made the system improvements last year we'd be in bad shape, but one of the things we accomplished is that we now have a supply of water to draw on."
The city used a $7.2 million combination grant and loan from the federal stimulus package to upgrade its system and add a new water main, second pump station and storage tanks.
5:23 p.m. Update: NWS categorized Wednesday night's tornado as a high EF2 with maximum speeds of 125 mph, according to a press release. Approximately 52 homes were damaged in the storms the evening of April 27, with 157 being damaged earlier Wednesday morning.
The tornado path was 23 miles long and one-fourth to one-half mile wide.
The worst damage was sustained near Cave Spring along the Chubb, Jim Shack and Mary Mac Roads.
The tornado began in SW Floyd County at 8:43 p.m. and exited 3 miles West of the Floyd/Bartow County Line.
People are advised to stay out of the area unless it is critical that you be there. Lines and trees are still down all over the county. Power is still out in a large portion of the county.
In the last two days, Floyd County Public Works has recorded 69 closings due to storm damage. Crews have worked frantically to clear most of the roads. While most have been open, 10 remain closed to thru traffic in spots. Caution is advised in the hardest hit areas due to debris on the shoulders creating some narrow traffic lanes. In addition, work crews are still in areas working on utilities and trees.
Closed, mostly due to utility lines in trees:
- Simpson Drive (Garden Lakes)
- Lindsey Road (Armuchee)
- Youngs Mill Road
- Marlene Drive
- Henson Road
- Presley Street
- Old Summerville Road (CC Road)
- Beech Street
- Melton Street
- Lindsey Lane
View RNT's latest videos on the storm
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Get the latest closings and delays from RN-T
Need to report a power outage? Call Georgia Power at 1-888-655-5888.
3:40 Update: Search-and-rescue crews combed for survivors Thursday among the rubble of buildings flattened by a suspected tornado in northwest Georgia, where a chain of severe storms killed at least 14 people and injured dozens more.
Seven were killed near the Georgia-Tennessee state line in Ringgold and surrounding Catoosa County. Sheriff Phil Summers told reporters Thursday that a number of people reported missing have yet to be found, though he didn't know how many. Searches were focusing on debris among fast-food restaurants and motels near Interstate 75 and several residential areas that the sheriff said had "nothing but foundations left."
"We have what I would call extreme damage, devastation that we're dealing with," Summers said. "We do have buildings and homes that are completely gone, they've been completely devastated in this. So we have a lot of work."
At least five tornadoes were reported in Georgia since the storms began Wednesday, according to preliminary reports from the National Weather Service.
Two people were killed in Spalding County when a tree fell on a home, according to Maj. Wendell Beam of the Spalding County Sheriff's Department. One man died when a storm hit his Rabun County home. Two people were killed in Dade County, and two others in Lamar County. Details on those deaths were not immediately available.
A suspected tornado in Ringgold flattened about a dozen buildings, trapping an unknown number of people. In addition to seven dead, county officials said 30 people were taken to hospitals and an additional 150 were evacuated to emergency shelters.
Phone and power lines are down all over town and small buildings look crushed, as if someone stepped on the roof. With so many tree limbs snapped, the smell of pine was powerful.
Clare Fackler, 63, had stopped to rest for the night at a Ringgold motel while traveling home to Michigan. She said she was talking on the phone when she felt pressure in her ears, heard a rumble and told her friend, "I have to go. There's a tornado coming."
Fackler of Harrison Township, Mich., said she tried to dive for cover between the two beds in her room.
"Before I could slide off the bed, the ceiling came down on me," she said. Despite bruises and cuts to her right arm, used to shield her head, Fackler escaped without serious injury.
According to National Weather Service meteorologist Jessica Fieux in Peachtree City, five survey teams are in the field in 15 different counties trying to determine precisely how many tornadoes touched down Wednesday.
She said weather conditions were ripe Wednesday for so-called tornado super cells, which resulted in the multiple storms.
Officials were still evaluating damage in other parts of Georgia on Thursday.
In Dade County, Coroner Johnny Ray Gray said the south end of Trenton suffered heavy damage, including an apartment complex in the town about 125 miles northwest of Atlanta.
Police in Ringgold were keeping all nonemergency people and traffic off the city roads Thursday so rescuers could search through debris. The sheriff said the storm knocked down electricity lines and caused gas leaks. He said there have been reports of looting.
The storm struck near Interstate 75, then crashed through the city's business center before going over a ridge and devastating a residential community. The sheriff said rescue and recovery efforts would likely take days and Ringgold residents were asked to boil water as a health precaution.
There were early reports that eight campers were missing along the Pine Mountain Trail in Roosevelt State Park. But Nancy Jones, chairman of the Meriwether County Board of Commissioners, said they had been contacted by authorities and all were safe.
Associated Press writers Shannon McCaffrey, Jeff Martin and Leonard Pallats in Atlanta and Russ Bynum in Savannah contributed to this report.
3:00 p.m. Update: Pieces of roofing tin dangled from tree branches and draped over fences along Padlock Mountain Road, but the house they’d been torn from was nowhere in sight.
Sidney Ford, 49, walked among what remnants of his home hadn’t been flung into Big Cedar Creek or along Jim Shack Road.
“I built this (house) by hand,” Ford said. “I touched every board in here.”
Ford’s house was one of dozens ripped apart by Wednes-day night’s storm.
Georgia Power, cable and city crews spanned the region working to dig out roadways from the forests they were buried under and to check devasted structures for survivors.
Ford said he and his wife ran to the bathroom, crouched down and started praying right before the storm hit their house.
That corner of the house is the only part that wasn’t turned into a skylight.
“This is the most craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Ford said. “I thank God that I’m here.”
2:33 p.m. Update: Bartow County is still digging out from what Battalion Fire Chief Bryan Cox said was almost certainly a tornado -- and officials are asking the curious to stay away from the stricken areas.
The Crowe Springs area and, basically, "everything between Highway 41, Joe Frank Harris Parkway, and Rydal" took the brunt of the storm, Cox said.
"We have a lot of homes damaged in the northeast part of the county; anything from minor damage to total destruction," he said. "The Sheriff's Office has a tight security ring around our hardest-hit areas. Give us a few days to get it secure. We've already had a few instances of delayed responses because people were blocking the road."
Emergency responders spent the night checking damaged structures and answering "numerous, numerous" calls for help, Cox said. Four people were taken to Cartersville Medical Center with broken arms or legs, but most of the reported injuries were treated on the scene. One firefighter was treated for exhaustion.
At one point, more than 30 roads were blocked due to downed power lines, trees or structure debris. Crews had most of the roads clear by Thursday afternoon and officials were out assessing the damage.
Cox said the winds cut a large swath nearly diagonally across the county, from just east and north of Kingston to the Gordon/Cherokee/Bartow county line.
"We were put under tornado warnings three different times, and some eyewitnesses reported funnel clouds twice," he said. "It hasn't been officially designated yet, but from the amount of damage it appears it was a tornado."
1:41 p.m. Update: RINGGOLD — Gov. Nathan Deal said the state will do all it can to help the victims who were punished by a storm that bullied its way through Catoosa and Dade County on Wednesday.
“It’s hard to imagine nature can be this devastating,” Deal said during an interview Thursday from the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office. “We are quite fortunate, honestly, that we did not have more loss of life.”
Seven fatalities were reported in Catoosa County and four in neighboring Dade County.
The art building at Ringgold High School was destroyed and Ringgold Middle School received extensive damage.
The governor has declared a state of emergency in Floyd, Walker, Catoosa, Dade, Bartow, Coweta, Greene, Lamar, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Pickens, Polk, Rabun, Spalding and Troup counties.
Deal said he is working to get the federal governments to declare the region a disaster area in hopes of getting federal aid.
He said people with no shelter should call the governor’s office at 1-404-656-1776.
Leroy Wilson, with Angel EMS in Fort Oglethorpe, said he was among the first responders on the scene.
He said he was on standby when “somebody very frantic was on the radio screaming for help and said it had just happened. He said their car was overturned and people were bleeding.”
A McDonald’s and a BP in Ringgold were “flattened,” Wilson said.
Ringgold Mayor Joe Barber said it will take at least six months to repair the middle school.
State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, estimated that there are about 2,000 students in his district that may not have a safe classroom to sit in.
He said the state will work swiftly to remediate those losses, but didn’t have any specifics.
Meanwhile, Barber said the city of Ringgold is also dealing with water issues because power to several pump stations are out, and they are seeking backup generators.
Georga Power estimated that power might be restored within 24 hours.
Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office, the Cohutta Police De-partment and the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department are assisting with the recovery, along with state agencies and mutual aid responders from other counties. More than 300 emergency workers were working Thursday.
Deal extended his sympathy to families and property owners in the area.
Report by Rachel Brown, The Dalton Daily Citizen
1:29 p.m Update:The National Weather service has released a tornado outbreak summary for Northwest Georgia.
Click here to see the summary and a map of preliminary tornado tracks in Georgia.
1:13 p.m Update: Catoosa County and Ringgold access has been officially shutdown by local authorities as a tornado has completely leveled several commercial and residential structures. The roads are debris covered and not safe to travel on. There is an estimated 500 first responders and military presence on the ground. The traveling public are being urged to avoid these areas until further notice. The following roads have been closed:
* I-75 NB exit ramp to SR 151 (exit 348)
* I-75 SB exit ramp to SR 151 (exit 348)
* US 41 EB at SR 151
* US 41/76 WB at SR 151 Spur
* SR 151 SB at Tennessee St
The Georgia State Patrol Post in Dalton reports high volume of calls related to increased travel time around the I-75 exits due to the exit ramps being closed for Ringgold.
12:34 p.m. Update: Water and sewer customers in Floyd County did not lose service, but that's because crews are patching the system by hand.
Water and Sewer Director Leigh Ross said power is out to a number of pumping stations and the automatic SCADA system that runs the pumps and fills the tanks is down.
"We're having to do a lot of manual work, having to contrive ways to get water from one part of the system to another," he said.
Generators were brought in to power the system to Mount Alto and Wilkerson Road because "it's so high there's no other way to get water up there," Ross said.
Some of the sewer system pumps also are down but the newer, larger stations have backup power. Sewage running to smaller pumps "will just have to sit there until we get the power back on," he said. "The good part is that nobody has power there, so there's not a lot of activity."
Ross said he's unaware of anyone losing water service due to the storm, but said if anyone did they should call the department. Water that went out and came back on would need to be boiled for at least a minute before use, he said, until it can be tested for safety.
Added: Floyd County Utilities Director Steve Hulsey said power was restored to the Old Mill pump station by 2 p.m. and his crews spent most of the day helping public works crews clear debris.
11:57 a.m. Update:Power has been restored to Redmond Regional Medical Center.
Click here to see a video posted on Redmond's Facebook page.
The power at Floyd Medical Center was uninterrupted and only a few of the regional primary care offices are closed, according to a FMC spokesman.
Redmond Regional Hospital didn't treat many victims of the storm, but officials are prepared for the aftermath.
"What we've seen is clean-up injuries," spokeswoman Lisa Brown said. "People are going out with their chainsaws and power tools and there have been some minor injuries. We've been encouraging people not to handle their own clean-up unless they are trained."
Brown said Redmond's emergency medical services crews were kept busy last night, helping people trapped in their homes or cars, but saw no serious injuries.
The hospital sustained little damage from the storm, she added, and full power is now restored.
"We only had one window blow out, and that was in a hallway, not in a room. It's being fixed now," Brown said. "We just got a little flashing on the roof, no real damage or leaks getting in, and out power is back 100 percent so kudos to Georgia Power for working so hard on it."
11:32 a.m. Update: County Manager Kevin Poe was among the officials who surveyed the damaged areas from a Georgia State Patrol helicopter this morning. He said the path of destruction is clearly visible from the air -- coming our of Cave Spring to the east, across Chubb Road, Jim Shack Road and Booger Hollow Road -- then across U.S. 27 and Ga. 101 into the Wax Community.
"There's a distinct path the tornado took. A number of houses are totally obliterated," he said. "If we come out of this thing without any serious injuries and fatalities, it's incredible."
All indications are that no one was hurt or killed, he said, but law enforcement and first responders are going house-to-house and sifting through the debris. In some places access is only possible by four-wheeler.
"We'd hope by now that if there was an issue we'd have been made aware of it," Poe said. "But some of the houses don't exist any more and others have been hit with roofs and other parts gone."
Hundreds of trees are down as well. Crews have been working to remove them as soon as possible but they are cautious of live power lines and have to wait until Georgia Power crews clear the areas.
"Of course, Georgia Power is overwhelmed too," he said. "All this is going to take some time to get cleaned up."
The best assistance residents can give is to stay out of the damaged areas and let the trained professionals work, he said.
Help has come from other counties and federal and state officials also are on site. Poe said Georgia Emergency Management Agency personnel are helping to document the destruction so an application for disaster assistance can be made. An official with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also is assessing the situation.
"We know it was a tornado but they're trying to classify it," Poe said.
City and County officials are coordinating on a long-term clean-up plan that will likely include extended hours for the Walker Mountain Landfill this weekend and a waiver of disposal fees for residents clearing debris in their yards.
Poe said crews also will be heading back up to the Armuchee and Coosa areas, which were hit earlier Wedmnesday.
"We did as much as we could at the time, but then we had to step back and wait for Georgia Power to do their work," he said.
11:20 Update: According to Georgia Power - Floyd County still has 17,400 without power. Concentrations are 1,200 in the 30165 zip code, 2,400 in the 30161 zip code, and the bulk of the remainder in Cave Spring area.
11 a.m. Update: Major department stores are open in Rome today, but shoppers are out of luck if they’re looking for a portable generator.
According to Operator Laura Chapin, Home Depot sold out of portable generators early and she has had more than 55 calls inquiring about them since 9 a.m. Chapin said Alabama residents have been pouring in looking for storm necessities like gas cans, plastic tarps and chainsaws.
Lowe’s hasn’t had any generators in stock since this morning, but offers to have one special ordered and shipped to a buyer’s home by Monday at the earliest.
Ace Hardware manager Denny Allen said that calls have been pouring in for battery-powered lanterns, propane and, of course, portable generators. Ace sold out quickly, according to Allen, and can order one to be delivered Tuesday.
Both East Rome Walmart and West Rome Walmart are open today, and employees from both stores said they’ve had a huge influx of Alabama residents as well.
10:05 a.m. Update: Public Safety officials have set up a command post at Georgia Highlands College as of 8 a.m. this morning. Crews are still out surveying the damage on Jim Shack Road and Leonard Road, according to Floyd County Public Information Officer Joy Peterson.
Georgia Power crews are still on the scene grounding wires and cutting them out of downed trees. Public Works crews have been out since daylight clearing debris from the roadways.
The public is advised to avoid that area entirely. If you must be there, please use extreme caution with downed power lines; assume that they are “hot.”
Damage estimates from the storms late last night are still coming in. The Rome-Floyd Fire Department is setting up three main areas for search and rescue, going from house to house. The Jackson Chapel/Mountain Home Loop area, Mountain Home Road to 100 and the Jim Shack Road area.
9:44 a.m. Update: Chattooga County weathered the storm with very little damage and no loss of electricity.
"We're in good shape. I'm not aware of so much as a tree down last night," Sole Commissioner Jason Winters said.
County offices, however, are fielding calls from nearby Georgia and Alabama areas looking for gas stations and grocery stores. Winters said the county has power and all businesses are open as usual.
In fact, Chattooga crews are being sent to surrounding counties. Winters said Summerville sent a contingent of police to Rome, the county sent mutual aid to Dade County and the emergency management director is up in Catoosa County where at least seven people were killed by a tornado that swept across Interstate 75.
"We're trying to help those folks," Winters said.
9:17 a.m. Update: 17,000 Georgia Power customers remained without power this morning in Floyd County. Additional crews are being dispatched to Rome. Approximately 10,000 North Georgia EMC customers are still without power. Widespread destruction has occurred throughout NGEMC’s service territory.
Due to the extensive devastation and heavy debris, restoration to many areas is not expected for several days. Customers still without power are encouraged to seek shelter where electricity service is not interrupted.
9 a.m. Update: Elm Street Elementary School is without power today, but Rome Schools Superintendent Gayland Cooper said officials and staff are pulling together to ensure students are getting what they need. Cold meals will be brought in by Mayfield Dairy and the school nutritionists, and conditions in the building are comfortable.
All other schools in the system are unaffected by the storm and Cooper said he didn't want to call off classes because of a single outage.
"The bottom line is, I have to believe the students are safer in school than rambling around the neighborhoods today," he said. "And it's good for them to be in a learning environment -- so whenever it's possible to go, we'll go."
Cooper apologized for the inconvenience to the families without power, but said he spoke with emergency officials before making the decision to hold classes and determined the roads were clear and the situation had improved from yesterday. He praised the administrators and students at Elm Street for enduring the minor hardship.
"They know they're pulling this together for all the children," he said.
Floyd County Schools are closed today but the city sustained less damage from the storm than the unincorporated area.
8:45 a.m. Update: Seven traffic signal heads blew off the span wire near Mount Berry Square Mall during the storm, but crews were able to replace them quickly , according to Rome Assistant Public Works Director Steven Foy.
"We were fortunate. We had a bigger inventory than we normally do because we're getting ready to build three intersections in South Rome," he said. "We were able to borrow from Peter to pay Paul, but they're going to cost about $10,000 to replace."
Foy said a few neighborhood streets are still barricaded while crews remove trees and debris from the roadway, but the biggest priority yesterday was to get the major roads clear and functioning for fire, police and ambulances.
See a video of Ringgold tornado
8:40 a.m. Update: A Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief crew is helping with the cleanup at Shorter University. They came in yesterday after the morning storms.
8:20 a.m. Update: Department of Transportation crews on US Hwy. 411 E are clearing the far lane of trees and power lines. Drivers are urged to use caution as traffic is not being deferred at this time and crews are working in the roadway.
According to WSBtv.com, Governor Deal declared a state of emergency in Catoosa, Dade, Floyd and Walker counties around 11 p.m last night, and at least seven Georgia Power trucks were spotted traveling into Floyd County from US Hwy. 411 Thursday morning.