ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Authorities blamed violent storms for the death of an 83-year-old Georgia woman Saturday as vicious weather pounded the state for a second straight day.
More than 100 homes were destroyed or damaged by possible tornadoes from Paulding County near the state's northwest border with Alabama all the way south to Lowndes and Lanier counties at the Georgia-Florida line. Few injuries were reported across the state, said Lisa Janak, spokeswoman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
Police in Alpharetta north of Atlanta blamed torrential rains overnight for the death of a woman whose body was found Saturday in a creek more than 100 yards from her home.
Investigators believe Patricia Barnette, 83, tried to take shelter in a large drainage pipe behind her house when storms hit late Friday and got washed away by the downpour, police spokesman George Gordon told The Associated Press.
Gordon said family members told police that Barnette was afraid to take shelter inside her home because it didn't have a basement and had mentioned the outdoor drain pipe as somewhere she might hide.
"For whatever reason she theorized in her mind that should such severe weather come, that would be a safe place to go," Gordon said. "Of course, it led to a tragic outcome."
Barnette was among 38 people reported killed by the violent storms in five states: Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.
While skies cleared in northern Georgia on Saturday, storms threated tornadoes and flooding across most southern counties from Albany in the state's southwest corner to Savannah on the coast.
In Valdosta and surrounding Lowndes County, possible tornadoes damaged at least 15 homes. Several homes were destroyed, but no injuries reported other than "some scratches and scrapes," said Paige Dukes, an emergency management spokeswoman for the county.
Dukes said the damage seemed confined to 8 or 10 small pockets "where there's a home or a mobile home that got significant damage and the ones next to it weren't touched," as if the severe weather literally skipped over the unscathed neighbors.
In neighboring Lanier County, sheriff's dispatcher Wesley Studstill said about a dozen mobile homes were destroyed but only one was occupied by a woman who escaped with minor injuries. Outbuildings behind Lakeland Hospital were damaged, he said, the hospital suffered only minor rood damage.
"Compared to the folks earlier in week, we've been very lucky," Studstill said.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for counties in southeast Georgia until 8 p.m. Saturday. Flood watches were in effect for much of southern Georgia as well.
Georgia Power said about 1,600 customers were without electricity Saturday afternoon, divided mostly between Valdosta and metro Atlanta.
The worst damage reported occurred overnight Friday in Paulding County, where authorities said nearly 100 homes had suffered moderate to severe damaged, possibly by a tornado, as well as the county airport and an elementary school.
The Atlanta Constitution reported (http://bit.ly/y4faxN) about a dozen planes, hangars and the terminal at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport suffered extensive damage. Airport manager Blake Swafford said metal ripped from the hangars ended up in trees and several windows were smashed.
"All the fencing is damaged, all of the light posts are damaged, basically everything is damaged," Swafford said. "We're going to be a very, very long time cleaning up a huge mess and starting over."
Not far from the airport, Poole Elementary School had much of its roof torn off and a brick wall had been shattered. Six portable classroom trailers were damaged.
"My first thought is the fact that it wasn't during the day with the kids," said Angie Capobianco, the school's principal. "That's a blessing. I just feel so fortunate that it didn't happen during the day."