Middle Georgians ducked for cover Saturday as severe storms spawned tornadoes and generated hurricane-force winds that toppled trees in multiple counties.
The National Weather Service warns of two more bouts of severe weather expected early Sunday and in the afternoon hours.
Heavy rain, large hail, strong winds and isolated twisters are expected through Sunday with the volatile weather pattern.
As tornado sirens sounded Saturday, part of the roof ripped off the Wal-Mart on Booth Road in Warner Robins.
Neighbors in the nearby Harvest Point subdivision reported seeing a tornado blow through.
“Blessed” is the word several of them used when asked how they felt after the storm.
At least two homes were substantially damaged and debris was scattered around the neighborhood, but no injuries were reported.
Antonio Rouse and his 13-year-old daughter hunkered down in a closet in their home on Hidden Creek Circle in Cedar Point. They heard the roof blowing off, and he figured his house was damaged beyond repair. But he said he and is daughter are fine.
“We were praying,” he said when asked what they were doing as the storm went over. “God be with me, that’s all I could think. I’m just blessed to be here.”
Andrew Winn said he was talking with his wife on the phone when he looked out side and saw what he described as definitely a tornado.
“I looked out and a funnel cloud was coming this way,” he said. “It was crazy.”
Lareese Benefield looked out his window as the storm blew over and he also said that what he saw was definitely a tornado. He said it skipped over his house and there was no damage. But it did destroy the wooden fence of his neighbor, Ricardo Williams.
“God was in the room with us,” Williams said.
On Windmill Court, a family escaped injury as most of their roof blew off.
Water puddled up in the aisles of the Wal-Mart as emergency responders dealt with a gas leak, Houston County EMA Director Jimmy Williams said.
Police kept the public away from the damage at the back of the building in the area of the auto care center.
Three ambulances were parked in front of the store as employees stood around waiting for the scene to be safe, but there were no confirmed reports of injuries.
At about 12:30 p.m., a trained weather spotter reported a rain-wrapped tornado across Ga. 96 just west of Moody Road. An 8-inch tree limb hit the spotter’s vehicle as the twister crossed, according to preliminary damage reports.
According to scanner reports, a building was damaged at Robins Air Force Base and a tree fell on a house in Houston County near Lake Joy and Sandefur Road.
At the Century of Flight Hangar at the Museum of Aviation, students competing in the Lego Robotics championship huddled on the floor and under tables to ride out the storm.
Once things calmed down, work crews swept through the base property and found widespread damage, said Roland Leach, of the Robins Public Affairs Office.
“But none of it was significant enough to impact the mission or degrade operations,” Leach stated in an email. “No injuries were reported and emergency teams are clearing debris and securing damaged facilities.”
Normal operations were expected to continue.
ALL OVER THE PLACE
EMA Director and Houston County Fire Chief Jimmy Williams reported numerous trees down from Perry northward to Bonaire with multiple roads blocked.
On The Telegraph’s Facebook page, Rebecca Young posted a picture of a damaged fence near Mossy Creek Middle School in Kathleen.
The severe storms brought hurricane force winds in isolated areas.
In Laurens County, numerous trees were downed with the bulk of the damage west of Dudley north and south of Interstate 16, which is the same area as a radar-indicated tornado passed, according to the local emergency manager.
In Wilcox County, a 60 mph wind gust rocked a mobile home near Abbeville.
Another possible tornado is blamed for damage at the Upson County Airport where many trees are down and snapped about 2 miles to the southwest of The Rock.
The Monroe County EMA director reported a possible touchdown of a twister between Bolingbroke and Smarr, although that has not yet been confirmed.
“Either a tornado, or straight line winds,” Perry said. “I’ll be willing to bet we have shingles off houses and damage to small sheds.”
A large number of trees blocked roads around Smarr in the Walden Road area to near King and Woodward roads.
Baldwin County Fire Rescue reported trees down and power outages near Coopers and Ga. 24 around Deepstep and the northwest section of the county.
Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said a small tornado touched down at about 1:30 p.m. at Oconee Springs Park, a county-owned facility about 12 miles east of Eatonton on Lake Sinclair.
“There were no injuries, but there was considerable damage to trailers and campers at the park,” Sills stated in an email to The Telegraph. “There were actually people who saw it and said it started as a water spout on the lake.”
Before noon in Upson County, the severe weather hit at about 11:20 a.m. with a possible twister damaging the Riverbend Restaurant on the Flint River.
Taylor County reported another possible tornado that damaged a mobile home and ripped shingles off roofs of buildings.
The National Weather Service had issued a tornado watch for conditions favorable for spawning severe weather in the southern half of Georgia through Saturday afternoon.
Bibb County was spared any major damage.
Emergency Management Agency Director Spencer Hawkins said a few large trees fell and some power lines were down.
“We’re up and operational again,” Hawkins said Saturday evening. “Come 4 a.m. Sunday, we’ll be ready again.”
Tornado warnings sounded in multiple counties and survey crews are expected to visit the damage to determine how many tornadoes touched down and rate the strength of the storms.
The Byron Police Department reports their community came through the storms without reports of damage, but warned everyone to be on alert as two more bouts of severe weather could be possible Sunday.