A Monroe County woman was eating pizza for lunch with her granddaughters Monday afternoon when a cellphone alert signaled that a storm was bearing down on them.
“We went into the hallway and, about five minutes later, the tree came through the house into the kitchen,” Melinda Benson told The Telegraph outside her home on Gose Road, off U.S. 41. “It sounded like a freight train coming through.”
The storms that ripped eastward about 1:30 p.m. left a swath of downed trees, which closed roads and caused power outages in counties across the midstate. By Monday night, at least three tornadoes had been confirmed. One passed near Griffin in Spalding County, another in Laurens County, about 11 miles northwest of Dublin, and a third in Washington County near Hebron.
Matt Perry, director of the Monroe County Emergency Management Agency, said several homes were damaged by trees in Smarr and in Culloden on Norwood and College streets.
“We got smacked pretty hard,” Perry said. “I don’t know if this is going to be any indication of what spring storms are, but if it is, we’re in for a long spring.”
The Forsyth Burger King sign was blown on top of a car. The interstate was riddled with wrecks. Trees blocked several lanes of Interstate 75, and one fell on top of a car, crushing it.
Benson, who lives near a house where someone sustained a storm-related injury, said she was thankful that she and her grandchildren weren’t hurt.
“That house can be replaced, but my grandchildren are safe,” Benson said.
In Wilkinson County, parts of Macon Road and South Main Street in Gordon were hit hardest by the storm. The entire front of J&J Industrial Tools and Supplies and a portion of the back of the building fell during the storm, as well as some of the roof, said Wilkinson County EMA Director Gary Brown.
Water was pouring into a Windstream office after part of its roof caved in. Several vacant buildings in this area also had minor damage, and trees fell onto some older, unoccupied homes.
In Houston County, wind gusts of about 80 mph were reported near the Turner Park neighborhood on Robins Air Force Base, according to preliminary damage reports from the National Weather Service. There were also a few trees down on roads near Luna Lake and a family campground. Scattered limbs were also reported near Pine Oaks lodging.
The Byron Fire Department posted on Facebook that a funnel cloud was spotted nearby but it didn’t appeared to have touched down. Downed trees “appear to have been blown down by straight-line winds” the post said.
There were power outages and downed trees in Bibb County, too.
Another round of severe weather is expected to hit the area Wednesday, National Weather Service meteorologist Kent McMullen said, adding that Monday’s damage was mostly from “strong straight-line winds and these isolated tornadoes.”
“We have had trees down across every county,” McMullen said from the weather service’s Peachtree City headquarters. “Right now, we’re hearing about a lot of trees down across central Georgia. Damage from trees goes all the way up to Lumpkin County.”
Winds in Peach reached about 50 mph, and Jones County clocked them at more than 60 mph, according to their Emergency Management agencies. Quarter-sized hail was reported in Johnson County, McMullen said.
Photographer Woody Marshall and reporter Wayne Crenshaw contributed.