Laurens County storm officially a tornado

wcrenshaw@macon.com and lfabian@macon.comFebruary 21, 2014 

The National Weather Service has confirmed that severe storm damage in Laurens County on Friday was caused by a tornado.

A survey team that went to county graded the twister an EF-2 that cut a 17-mile swath after touching down near the Dublin airport. It ended in Johnson County about five miles southeast of Wrightsville.

Alex Gibbs, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, said the tornado had a maximum wind speed of 125 mph and a maximum width of 200 yards.

It downed 300 to 500 trees, damaged 59 homes and destroyed one home, he said. At least one home has been destroyed after a possible tornado bore down on northeast Laurens County.

A house was demolished on Claxton Dairy Road near the airport, about a half-mile north of the U.S. 441 bypass, early Friday morning as a severe thunderstorm moved through.

Amid the rubble of wood, a lone brick chimney and a portion of one room is all that stands at the house.

Across the highway to the east, Trinity Christian School’s 400 students moved to the hallway of Trinity Christian School.

"The weather was absolutely crazy," said Evan Winegarner, development coordinator of the private school near U.S. 441. "Our flag poles were going a little crazy and our trees were bending over."

The National Weather Service preliminary damage report showed houses damaged and trees down three miles east-northeast of the Holly Hills community in the eastern section of Laurens County.

Trampolines flew and oak trees fell near Linda Harvey’s home north of Dublin.
Joe Kovac Jr./The Telegraph

As the storm ripped through students at all schools in the Laurens County public school system went into hallways as part of the system's tornado response, Superintendent Rob Johnson said.

"We wanted to make sure they were safe," he said of the system's employees and roughly 6,700 students.

In the hallways, students faced the wall in designated areas, away from any glass, for about an hour.

The driver of one bus on the road at the time, carrying seven students, was told to take cover.

Students were cleared to return to their classrooms about 9:30 a.m.

Trinity Christian, which is near Holly Hills, serves children from pre-kindergarten to 12th

grade.

Winegarner said the power was still on at 9:30 a.m. and the students had been in the hallway for more than an hour, waiting until the headmaster sounded the all-clear.

The children took cover about 10 minutes before the storm hit.

Although Winegarner could see crews working to remove power lines from near U.S. 441, the school did not appear to sustain major damage.

"It was very close, but we are very fortunate," Winegarner said. "God was looking out for us."

Beatrice Dixon said she saw God’s blessings amid the tornado’s devastation.
Joe Kovac Jr./The Telegraph

 

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