[Update] - Lowndes County, Ga. - March 10, 2012 -
Homeowners in Lowndes and Lanier counties slowly piece their lives back together in the wake of a devastating F-3 tornado that ripped through the area just a week ago.
Now chain saws, trucks and plenty of elbow grease are being used to clear the way for a brighter tomorrow. Hundreds of volunteers are offering their assistance. And residents tell Eyewitness News reporter Greg Gullberg that they are overwhelmed by the surge of support.
"I never expected this. I never, never in my wildest dreams. I never expected this. I just thought this was going to be a family affair and we'd just do it when we got to it," home owner Barbara Crittenden tells Gullberg.
The legions of volunteers clear the debris and help get the families back on track.
"We just felt like we needed to come in and help the whole road and community," Barbara's son John Crittenden Jr. tells Gullberg.
Crittenden is helping lead the volunteer effort including Red Cross, Missionaries and local business leaders. All of them united under a common cause.
"This is a small community out here but it was hit real hard. We just really want to thank everybody for coming out and helping out on this bad storm that came through," John tells Gullberg.
"It means that people care. It means that people have love in their heart for other people," said Barbara.
The Red Cross offered immediate assistance to families affected by the storm. They arranged shelters for those in need.
Lowndes and Lanier residents needing tornado-related assistance may still call the Red Cross' South Georgia chapter.
There phone number is: (229) 242-7404
[Update] - Lowndes County, Ga. - March 09, 2012 -
Residents in Lowndes and Lanier Counties who lost their homes have a long road to recovery ahead of them, but there may be another threat to watch out for: scammers.
Home owners who are still out picking up the pieces should be careful of hiring the first contractors that come by offering quick fixes, because they could be unscrupulous storm-chasing scammers.
Storm-chasing contractors often go door to door looking for people in need of help. They promise quick repairs for storm damage in exchange for cash upfront. But homeowners may get a nasty surprise when they learn they've overpaid or paid for fixes that weren't even necessary.
Roofs often take the brunt of the damage. That's the easiest and most lucrative target for scammers. They might want to replace the whole thing at your expense when a reputable contractor would have just made some quick fixes.
If your home suffers damage get estimates from at least three licensed local contractors with a good reputation.
The best service companies are going to be the busiest so patience is key. And beware the company with too much time on its hands when every other similar company can't even answer the phone.
Anyone with storm damage to their house should alert their insurance company immediately.
-- Lakeland, GA -- March 5, 2012 --
On Saturday March 3, a tornado tore through Lowndes and Lanier County.
The damage was extensive but no injuries have been reported. About 30 homes in Lowndes were damaged as well as about 17 homes in Lanier County.
Lakeland resident Jason Sapp and his family were in their home when the tornado hit their house. His family is safe but he described the experience to Eyewitness News reporter Eames Yates saying "As soon as the walls lifted I then closed my eyes and I think I was trying to grab the carpet. Just anything that would secure us."
Lowndes County Clerk Paige Dukes described the magnitude of the tornado saying "this is historically the largest tornado that Lowndes County has experienced since we've been recording data. And some of that data goes back to the early nineteen hundreds."
Emergency Management officials are currently determining the tornado's financial impact.
March 5, 2012 -
Northern Lowndes County in Georgia got hit hard Saturday by a confirmed tornado.
The images tell the story. Barrets, GA, just north of Moody Air Force Base in Lowndes County, felt mother nature's wrath Saturday.
"The damage we're seeing is pretty consistent with what we call an E-F 2 tornado, a pretty strong tornado," said Jeff Evans of the National Weather Service.
Evans and his team from Tallahassee come in the day after a severe weather event to determine what happened. The destruction here left them no doubt.
"It looks like right through here, the strongest part of this tornado, was about 150 yards wide, with winds up to 120 to 130 miles per hour, which puts it on the high end of an E-F 2," said Evans as he scanned over the area.
Trees were uprooted, power lines sagged to the ground, and pieces of homes were littered everywhere.
Rex Cornwell lives right up the road from this stretch of HWY 125. His house was spared, but thats not what he was thinking when the tornado hit.
"I thought for sure I was going to lose my whole family, because you could hear it in the background," said Cornwell.
Cornwell stopped to snap some pictures of the aftermath. As destructive as the weather event was, thankfully no lives were lost.
"We were very, very fortunate that we didn't lose anyone during this tornado," said Evans