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Officials confirm that twisters touched down

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

McDonough resident, C.J. Singh, recalled dashing to the front door of the County Line Package Store as it swung open. It was forced outward by the power of the wind.

"It was very loud, like an airplane," said Singh. "The wind got real fast, and pulled the door out. Me, and a customer, were trying to pull the door to lock it."

Singh, who owns the package store, and the County Line BP Gas Station next door, said he noticed debris violently thrashing about across the street, just before he, and two of his customers, took shelter in the store's cooler. Warning sirens were blaring, he said.

The severe weather that moved through metro Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon, spun off one twister in the North Atlanta suburb of Buford, Ga., as well as one in the more rural community of Jenkinsburg, Ga. It is located adjacent to Henry County. National Weather Service (NWS) Meteorologist Steve Nelson, who surveyed the storm damage, made the confirmation late Wednesday that tornadoes had touched down.

The more powerful tornado hit the Kirkstone subdivision in Buford, some 75 miles north of Jenkinsburg. Buford residents would have experienced tornado wind speeds of up to 130 miles per hour, a Category 2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, according to Nelson. Jenkinsburg residents would have experienced winds between 65 and 83 miles per hour, which is a Category 0, on the scale.

Nelson said the tornado in Jenkinsburg began in Butts County at about 4:12 p.m., Tuesday. He said the twister appeared to be about 50 yards in width and traveled a 2.5-mile path along the Butts-Henry county line before it diminished in Locust Grove, in southeast Henry County.

The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning at that time, for Butts, Henry and Newton counties, and the warning expired at 4:45 p.m.

Jeff Wilson, a spokesman for Georgia Power, said a few residents in the area lost power as a result of Tuesday's severe weather. Officials reported that several power lines, and about 200 trees, were blown down. They said the twister also damaged some homes and businesses in Jenkinsburg.

Singh said his gas station had damage that will take about two weeks to repair. "We saw part of the canopy blow off," said Singh, recalling the minute-long ordeal. "I [remember] just feeling like there was going to be way more damage. I thought it was going to break the glass.

"I never thought something like this could happen," he continued. "If it would have been a little stronger than this, it may have taken out the entire building."

About a mile from Singh's gas station, was one of his regular customers, Debbie Greene, of Jenkinsburg. Greene said she was not in the tornado's path, but she debated whether to take her family down into their storm cellar. "I didn't really see anything," Greene said. "It was pretty scary. I'm glad its done and gone."

Meteorologist Steve Nelson advises residents to have a safe place to go during severe storms that may spin off tornados. "You should be indoors during a storm," he said. "Be on the lowest level of your house, and you want to put as many walls between you and outside."

The meteorologist noted that seeking shelter in a mobile home during a storm is not the safest place to be. He said mobile homes account for 50 percent of deaths caused by tornados in the South.

"Most people think that these storms and tornados happen in the spring, [but] these lines of storms produce tornados more than people think," said Nelson, who added that tornados occur frequently in Georgia between the months of November and May.