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'It felt like the ground was shaking': Severe storms cause damage in South Georgia

(WCTV)
Published: Apr. 9, 2020 at 6:28 PM EDT
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By: Charles Roop | WCTV Pinpoint Weather

April 9, 2020

LAKELAND, Ga. (WCTV) — It was quiet along the shores of Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge Thursday afternoon. But, for a brief moment the evening before, serenity turned into brief fright.

“The trailer started to move a little bit,” said Jerome Wooten, a volunteer who lives in an RV right next door to the shop at the refuge.

Not long after that shake after 8 p.m., Wooten and his wife’s phones alerted them of a tornado warning. That’s when they decided to act quickly and leave the RV for safer shelter.

“As soon as we got out the door, we could hear it coming from behind us,” Wooten said.

As soon as they went inside the small store just yards from their RV, Wooten said “it hit.”

“You could hear this tree pop down, and the wind started going to the left and the right,” he said. “And there was this big, huge roar. It felt like the whole ground shaking at the time.”

After the storm had quickly passed, he found a tree on the passenger side of the trailer. The RV appeared as if it had been split from the roof to the floor. Despite the damage, no one was hurt.

“We made it through alive, Wooten said. “It’s a good time.”

There were other places around Lakeland with damage, but mainly trees. But southeast of the refuge, the steeple on top of the Southside Baptist Church was toppled.

Damage surveys concluded it was straight line winds that caused the damage in and near Lakeland, according to the National Weather Service in Tallahassee. To the northwest in Berrien County, the NWS ruled it was an EF-0 tornado that went from Ray City southwest to 3 miles northwest of Lakeland, traveling 4 miles with peak winds of 80 mph.

This story was updated to reflect the storm survey results released Friday afternoon.