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10 tornadoes confirmed in Ga., including fatal one in midstate

The National Weather Service confirmed 10 tornadoes touched down Wednesday including one that killed a Hancock County man.

Severe storms that raked across the state unleashed twisters across 13 counties ranging in strength from EF-0 at Robins Air Force Base to an EF-4 with winds of up to 166 miles per hour in Wilkes County, according to The National Weather Service's preliminary tornado reports.

The first EF-0 twister was reported in Taylor County on Tommy Purvis Jr. Road at about 5:45 p.m. One home was damaged, a mobile home was shifted off its foundation and trees crashed down in the tornado which touched down intermittently over three to four miles with a 100 feet wide path and winds of 70 m.p.h.

At 6:25 p.m., a civilian worker at Robins Air Force Base was hit by debris as a base weather observer sited the twister off one of the runways. The minimal tornado had winds of 70 miles per hour and tracked just 50 feet into the woods and did not do any damage.

Shortly before 7 p.m. an EF-1 tornado hit U.S. 441 in Oconee County near Tappin Spur Road. The twister's 90 mile per hour winds downed numerous trees and closed the highway. Traveling over five miles with a width of 300 yards the tornado damaged roofs of several homes, moved a mobile home off its foundation and brought down hundreds of trees at the Georgia Nature Center. Two tent areas were destroyed and solar panels were damaged at the center.

The state's most powerful tornado touched down at 7:10 p.m. in Wilkes County and tracked 16 miles with a half-mile path of destruction. The twister is blamed for demolishing a cinder block home and blowing debris a half-mile away. A commercial chicken house was destroyed, a 2-ton truck was moved 60 feet, 19 outbuildings were destroyed and 15 houses sustained moderate to major damage.

At about 7:15, Robert Parham had a few customers in his Westside Drive nightclub on Glenwood Spring Road when an EF-1 tornado touched down with 110 mile per hour winds. Parham jumped under the bar while the patrons sought shelter under pool tables as the cinder blocks tore apart and the roof went flying away. The Putnam County Sheriff's Office reported rescuing two people from Parham's house next door to the club. One woman was injured by flying debris, said Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills. The tornado traveled five miles and destroyed the Headhunter Motor Club drag strip off U.S. 441. The twister, which had a three-quarter of a mile wide path, also toppled large power transmission lines near the Wal-mart on Gray Highway.

By 7:20 p.m. the first of two EF-1 tornadoes hit Jasper County and traveled three miles leaving a quarter mile wide path. The winds of 100 miles per hour damaged several buildings along Ga. 18 beginning in the Smithboro Community where one home was destroyed along with a small mill warehouse. Trees and power lines were also down. At 8 p.m. another EF-1 tornado touched down nine miles northwest of Shady Dale near Shepard Road. It continued seven miles with a quarter-mile wide track that downed more than 100 trees and did major damage to a small cottage in the northeast part of Jasper County and damaged five homes.

An EF-1 tornado hit Newton County's King Bostwick Road and tracked two miles with a 200-yard wide path. Twenty to 30 homes sustained extensive damage in a heavily wooded subdivision where trees crashed down on nearly every house in the 100 mile per hour winds.

At 8:30 p.m. an EF-2 tornado packing winds of 120 miles per hour touched down just inside the Meriwether County line and tracked into Coweta and Spalding counties. Four homes were destroyed and 40 were damaged over 20 miles. A horse was killed by flying debris near U.S. 27A.

In Hancock County, David Hill had fallen asleep watching the storm report on television when an EF-3 tornado hit with winds of 140 miles per hour at about 10:40 p.m. That tornado tracked a total of eight miles and left a path of destruction about 500 yards wide. Johnny Frank Baker, 60, was killed when his mobile home was shredded in the twister that destroyed the Hickory Grove Missionary Baptist Church across the street from his mobile home. His daughter, Lakesia Baker, and her two children were hurt as the storm blew them across the street where deputies found them in the rubble. Three other mobile homes were destroyed in the community. Hill's log cabin was shifted up to 20 feet and his neighbor's home under construction was destroyed. The American Red Cross was on the scene Thursday in the Hickory Grove community and pledged to offer assistance and counseling for storm victims.

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