EF-4 tornado was more than a mile wide with 170 mph peak winds, NWS says

A survey released by the National Weather Service provided preliminary details on just how violent Thursday's EF-4 tornado was as it demolished communities west of Atlanta.

The report, released on Sunday evening, said the tornado that tore through parts of Heard, Coweta and Fayette counties reached a maximum path width of 1,850 yards, about 1.05 miles, and the peak wind speeds reached 170 mph.

The report said, in total, the storm lasted 53 minutes.

The path spanned nearly 40 miles, the report said, starting in Heard County at approximately 11:37 p.m. on March 25. NWS said the storm initially dealt only minor damage to trees.

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The report said in minutes the wind speeds increased to 130 mph and the path width reached half a mile. In Franklin, the report described two homes with roofs blown off "completely," and a large stand of pine trees was snapped or uprooted.

The tornado crossed into Coweta County at 11:54 p.m. and increased from EF-2 intensity to EF-3 intensity with 150 mph winds, according to NWS.

The tornado was at its peak intensity of 170 mph when it entered Newnan city limits, the survey said, leaving destroyed homes in its wake. 

The report says one family survived without injuries by hiding in a bathtub, despite all but one walls in their home collapsing. 

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The path width was over one mile before the tornado reached Newnan High School. Part of the building are more than 120 years old, NWS said, but there was only one reported wall failure.

NWS said the storm appeared to weaken after this point but winds still reached max speeds of 120 to 135 mph.

 The report said the tornado crossed into Fayette county where it dissipated near Peachtree City at approximately 12:30 a.m. on Friday. 

The NWS said the information in the statement is preliminary and subject to change pending final review of the events and publication of NWS Storm Data.


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