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‘My sister survived this, and I thank God for that,’ Fort Valley man says of tornado

‘My sister survived this’: A tornado destroyed his sister’s house

Ronnie Daniely of Fort Valley talks about how a tornado destroyed his sister's home near the Crawford and Peach county line March 3, 2019.
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Ronnie Daniely of Fort Valley talks about how a tornado destroyed his sister's home near the Crawford and Peach county line March 3, 2019.

Deciding whether to rebuild after a tornado levels your home isn’t easy, say some whose family’s residences were ravished by twisters in Middle Georgia a week ago Sunday.

Ronnie Daniely of Fort Valley said his sister is facing that decision after a tornado destroyed her double-wide mobile home on Greer Road near the Crawford and Peach county line.

Vanessa Daniely had just walked into her bathroom to seek shelter in the tub when the tornado hit. The Peach County High School special education teacher was lifted in the air and then let down in the debris of what was once her home, her brother said.

She was released from the hospital Tuesday after undergoing surgery for a broken ankle.

”We talked about rebuilding one time and then the next day, she up and changed her mind, so I think she’s still afraid right now,” Ronnie Daniely said. “I told her just take your time and heal and we’ll tackle all that when it gets here.”

His sister is living with her daughter for now. Recovery is slow and she’s not expected to be able to return to her teaching job this school term, he said.

But she survived, Daniely said Saturday as he stood near the rubble.

Daniely pointed to the remains of the roof among the pile of debris and to the front door thrown on the grass. He found his brother’s wallet from belongings scattered when a storage shed in his sister’s backyard was also ripped apart by the tornado. A Georgia Association of Educators’ pamphlet was among his sister’s other belongings spread over a field across the street.

Nonetheless, his sister is “doing good and in high spirits,” he said.

The National Weather Service confirmed Daniely’s sister’s mobile home was flipped and demolished by an EF-2 tornado that roared through Crawford and Peach counties March 3. One of her cars was also flipped on its roof.

The tornado also destroyed a home on Wesley Chapel Road that Kevin and Mary Dawson spent 14 years of their lives investing in. They were in North Georgia working on their new home when the tornado took aim.

They had planned to sell their Crawford County house to their son, who was living there with his children. The family was also away when the tornado struck.

Now, their son and grandchildren have to find a new home, Kevin Dawson said.

“The main thing was there was nobody hurt,” Dawson said. “Houses can be rebuilt. And it may come one day to where we might build another house on that property.

“We’ll still own the property, but right now, with me trying to build this house up here (in North Georgia), I can’t be trying to build two houses at one time,” Dawson said. “I’m going to hold off on even thinking that direction and worry about this house up here.”

The twister was among 14 tornadoes within the NWS’ Atlanta-Peachtree City forecast area that spawned from major storms with deep rotating updrafts known as supercell storms that began to develop in Alabama and raced eastward into Middle Georgia.

The strongest produced EF-3 damage in Muscogee, Harris and Talbot counties near Columbus and catastrophic EF-4 damage just to the west in Alabama, the NWS reported.

In Middle Georgia, the NWS confirmed a brief EF-0 tornado in downtown Macon in Bibb County.

The tornado developed along Oglethorpe and 1st streets, with amateur video, a weather station, radar data and a storm survey used to confirm its damage.

The twister took out a transformer on Arch Street, blew in windows of a building on Hemlock Street and bent a large flag pole at the Medical Center, Navicent Health, the NWS said. The tornado also busted five windows on the southeast side of the hospital.

Ray Collier, a witness to the damage at the Medical Center, Navicent Health, describes what it was like to see the flag pole bend under the pressure of the wind during the storm on Sunday.

The tornado also broke and tossed tree limbs, damaged the roof of a building on Pine Street and blew out windows of several Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency vehicles as it passed over the agency’s building.

A weather station on the roof of the Macon-Bibb EMA building clocked winds at 66 miles per hour before the anemometer broke, the NWS reported. The tornado’s winds were estimated by the NWS at 85 mph.

The twister also blew out windows of buildings, took down a directional street sign and tossed large heavy tables at 1st and Poplar streets, while downing trees along Mulberry and Walnut streets. The tornado also blew out a fifth-story window of a building on Mulberry Street. The tornado lifted as it crossed Riverside Drive and the Ocmulgee River.

A second tornado, an EF-0, was also confirmed in eastern Macon County and southern Peach County where it snapped and uprooted trees, tore up a metal outbuilding, damaged a roof of a mobile home and snapped the posts of a 30-foot wooden fence, the NWS said. The tornado with 85-mph winds lifted near the Peach and Houston County line.

In Twiggs County, an EF-1 tornado with 90 mph-winds touched down near the KaMin factory on Huber Road, snapping and uprooting trees, the NWS said.

The tornado in Twiggs County was spawned out of the same supercell storm that produced the earlier tornado in Crawford and Peach counties that destroyed the Dawson and Daniely homes.

The tornado in Crawford and Peach County that clocked maximum winds of 115 mph also uprooted and downed trees, sent debris flying into roofs, destroyed pecan farming equipment and outdoor sheds. The tornado lifted after downing pecan trees along Oak Way.

“My sister survived this, and I thank God for that,” Ronnie Daniely said. “Anything else, we can get ... I can’t get another sister.”

Crawford County residents who suffered damage from the tornado talk about the experience and the damage they suffered.

Becky Purser covers breaking and Houston County news. She previously covered crime and courts for Houston and Peach counties for The Telegraph. A graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville with a bachelor’s degree in communications/news-editorial sequence, Becky also has covered city and county government for Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia newspapers.
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