Washington, DC -- Severe weather and tornadoes hit the state on the morning of February 14. Governor Roy E. Barnes declared a state disaster for Colquitt, Grady, Mitchell and Tift counties.
Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) is reporting a confirmed death toll of 19 as of 5 am this morning. Two other deaths are being investigated.
GEMA officials indicate the worst hit area is Camilla (pop. 5,008) in Mitchell County south of the city of Albany. The tornado that touched down there has been initially listed as an F-3 on the Fujita Scale (winds between 158 and 206 mph). It cut a path of destruction several miles long.
Initial county impact reports to GEMA:
- Colquitt County -- One fatality confirmed, five injuries; 14 residences destroyed, 8 with moderate damage and three with minor damage.
- Grady County -- Six fatalities confirmed, 15 injuries; 20 residences destroyed.
- Mitchell County -- 12 fatalities confirmed; American Red Cross (ARC) PDA reports 166 residences destroyed, 67 homes with major damage and 69 with minor. Eighteen poultry houses destroyed with loss of structures and livestock and several pecan orchards were destroyed. One ARC shelter is open in Camilla at the middle school on Griffin Road housing 17 individuals.
- Tift County - There were no fatalities and ten to 15 injuries were reported. There are widespread road closures reported due to debris. Some communications systems have been interrupted due to loss of cellular towers. Localized power outages are reported. A bulldozer strike team is operating in damage areas. An apartment complex in the Camilla area is reported to be severely damaged.
Five Salvation Army mobile feeding kitchens are operational in or en route to damage areas. Ten additional units are on standby for use as requested. A morgue has been established in Moultrie, GA. State medical examiners and assistants are being activated to support operations there. Several hospitals in southwestern Georgia treated the injured through the pre-dawn hours, some operating on back-up generators after the storms cut power to the area. Crews transported additional victims to a hospital across the state line in Tallahassee, Fla., officials said.
FEMA's Region IV Federal Regional Center Operation Cell in Thomasville, Ga. was activated yesterday. A FEMA Liaison Officer was deployed to the local command center in Camilla. A FEMA communications vehicle has been sent to the command center. The National Weather Service report the tornadoes were part of a broad weather system, which began moving through the South on Sunday afternoon. An upper-level air disturbance collided with thick moist air moving up from the Gulf of Mexico. The result was severe weather all the way from Arkansas to Florida to the Carolinas.
NWS reports eight unconfirmed tornadoes in Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia during this event. Frequent lightning strikes and wind gusts brought down trees and utility poles all across the Southeast. Panama City, Fla. reported damage to houses and businesses along with scattered injuries. In Nashville, Tenn., officials were searching through a neighborhood that had extensive damage from a possible tornado touchdown. Alabama and Mississippi have reported no significant impact from the storm.
The storm system crossed central Arkansas on the afternoon and evening of February 13 and left minor damage in Lonoke County. Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) reports that high winds damaged four houses and two mobile homes. Local representatives from ADEM surveyed the area yesterday. Also surveyed were reports of damage to isolated buildings in Prairie, Faulkner and Conway counties. There were no fatalities with one injury reported.