Lake Tobesofkee faces longterm closure because of damage

The storms that hit the county Sunday morning ravaged the area surrounding Lake Tobesofkee, Bibb County officials said today.

Such is the extent of the damage, officials aren't sure when he county's trio of recreational parks — all of which are currently closed — will open again for business.

The tornado — classified an EF2, with winds between 110 and 132 mph — that struck the area snapped trees, pulled down power lines, toppled structures in the park, damaged or destroyed visiting motor homes and filled the lake with debris, Lake Tobesofkee Director Doug Furney said.

"I have no idea when we can re-open," he said. "There's so much damage to each park. ...I'm hoping we can be open by Memorial Day, but these parks are totally destroyed."

Traditionally speaking, May is one of biggest months of year for the park, with Memorial Day weekend being the biggest and obvious attraction drawing people to the outdoor facilities.

"That's a major blow to us financially if we can't open these parks," Furney said, summing up the loss the county will feel if the cleanup fails to get the park's open in the next few weeks.

Currently, the park's public boat ramps are closed to the public and the county is advising homeowners with private access to the lake refrain from putting their boats in the water.

"We're trying to discourage people getting out on the water," Furney said, explaining that debris from damaged boat houses and downed trees have made the waterway dangerous.

Right now, Furney said he is not sure if the camping areas will re-open this summer.

A bathroom at Sandy Beach Park was completely destroyed and a shelter that was heavily damaged is leaning and will probably have to be torn down.

"It's unsafe for people to be in these areas," Furney said.

Elsewhere, trees are snapped 20 to 25 feet from the ground or have been uprooted. Furney estimated that 70 to 80 percent of the trees around the lake will have to be cut down — for safety reasons — in the coming weeks.

Officials said state and local prisoners are working to help clean up the parks.

"We've got a lot of help, and they're doing a heck of a job, but there's just so much (damage) that it's just going to take a long time to get anything (open)," Furney said.

Information from The Telegraph's archives was used in this report.