Locust Grove funnel cloud signals tornado season

By Aisha I. Jefferson

Tornado sirens sounded around Henry County after a funnel cloud was sighted near Locust Grove around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"It was spotted in the air; it never came down to the ground," Henry County Spokesman Larry Stanford said. "They did sound the alarms off to warn (people) to stay inside."

Aside from blooming flowers and warm weather, the start of spring also ushers in the start of the tornado season, where severe weather watches and warnings, and heavy rains become a common occurrence. Besides the tornado warning in Henry County Tuesday, the sudden burst of severe weather was blamed for a four-car accident on Interstate 75.

"During this transition period is when we usually have tornado threats," said meteorologist Jeff Dobur, of the National Weather Service.

Dobur said southwest Georgia was under the greatest severe weather threat Tuesday.

Dobur defined severe weather as penny-size hail that is about three-quarters of an inch and winds that are more than 58 mph. He said tornadoes and flash floods are severe weather.

Severe thunderstorms can also involve strong winds and some hail, Dobur said.

A flare-up of thunderstorm-type weather near Locust Grove Tuesday was also blamed for a four-car accident on I-75 near the Locust Grove exit.

"A passenger vehicle heading north on Interstate 75 hydroplaned, causing it to strike the guard rail and three other vehicles," Henry County Police Lt. Jason Bolton said.

He said the accident, which took place during heavy rain near the 211 mile marker, was weather-related.

There were no fatalities, but the driver of the hydroplaned vehicle was transported by ground to Grady Memorial Hospital for non-life threatening injuries, Bolton said.

Although the Henry County Emergency Communications did not report any storm damage, it did report a fallen tree blocking the east- and west-bound lanes on Crumbley Road, just northeast of McDonough, Stanford said.

Dobur recommended that during spells of severe weather and tornado warnings, people should stay aware, and turn to the radio or television for updates.

Jeff Myers, a disaster specialist with the American Red Cross South Metro Service Center, agreed with Dobur, adding people should be prepared for all disasters and not just those caused by severe weather.

Myers said keeping flashlights with working batteries and a battery-operated radio nearby in the event of a power outage is a good and safe idea.

"We find a lot of people like to use candles and unfortunately that adds a fire hazard," Myers warned.

He said families should practice a tornado plan where they evacuate to a central room with no windows.

He said many area schools do take time to practice a tornado evacuation plan.

"We always have people on call," Myers said. "We have a number of volunteers from Henry County that go out to help with disasters."