WALTON COUNTY, Ga. - The National Weather Service confirmed Thursday that a tornado touched down Wednesday night in Walton County, damaging homes in the area of Social Circle.
A team from the Weather Service confirmed an EF1 tornado with maximum winds of 100 miles per hour hit the Walton County area.
The confirmation comes after a surprisingly stormy night for residents east of metro Atlanta.
Three separate Tornado Warnings were issued, all associated with the same storm which moved from Social Circle past Athens.
It started around 7:24 p.m. when the National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for Northwestern Morgan County, Eastern Walton County, and Northeastern Newton County. FOX 5 Live VIPIR was tracking a severe thunderstorm over Social Circle with a tight circulation. FOX 5 viewers reported gusty winds and heavy rain in the area.
Emergency managers in Walton County said three home along Social Circle Fairplay Road sustained major damage and several more had down trees or a little damage. The Walton County Sheriff's Office closed the road to all but local traffic, clean-up crews, and emergency officials for several hours following the storm.
The Malcolm family who lives along the road told FOX 5’s Denise Dillon that a metal portion of their back roof flew off and landed by the road in their front yard. Their two trampolines also got tossed in the wind. A larger one was tossed into nearby bushes, while the smaller one was sent bouncing through their front yard and across the street.
Edward Long lives across the street. He was home with his 94-year-old grandmother, Ella Borders when they got the alert.
“One of the guys told me his app went off, the FOX 5 app went off and said there was a tornado in the area and based on the evidence that you can see, with the trees throw in different directions and one side of the road the path is a straight path, it definitely appears that it was a tornado that touched down,” Major Damien Mercer, Walton County Sheriff's Office.
“We was inside and I got the little the message on the phone that a tornado coming through, take cover. By the time I put my shoes on, it went from calm like this to Oooooooo!” Long exclaimed imitating the blowing wind. “And the only thing I could do was just look at, just look at the wind and everything coming through. Nothing we can do but just hold on.”
Long’s grandmother said she was frightened by how everything felt like it was coming down all at once. What she was feeling was three trees coming down on their home. Thankfully, they were able to hold on and neither was injured.
Another home next to Long's also had a tree on top of it. The Red Cross was patrolling the neighborhood helping residents whose homes were damaged.
EMA officials also were responding to a report that a nearby cell phone tower was downed during the storm.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
The storm moved on Bogart near Watkinsville, it again showed signs of strong circulation. Another Tornado Warning was issued, this time for North central Oconee County, Clarke County, Southeastern Jackson County, and Southwestern Madison County until 9:15 p.m.
Sirens could be heard on the campus of the University of Georgia as the warning was issued.
“A siren is great in Athens but don't rely on an outdoor siren as your only way to get a warning. Everybody's got cell phone now, tablets and iPads, and also watching the television, we'll bring a warning to you. Sirens are meant for people outside,” FOX 5 Storm Team Chief Meteorologist David Chandley said.
As the storm moved, so did the warned area. At 9:16 p.m., the National Weather Service placed Northeastern Clarke County, Northwestern Oglethorpe County, and Madison County under a Tornado Warning until 10 p.m. FOX 5 Live VIPIR spotted a severe thunderstorm over the Barretts Mills area near Athens and a second area of rotation near Sanford.
Chandley said it is unusual for tornadoes during this time of year, but not improbable.
"This was just one of those weird deals that happened out there," Chandley told FOX 5 News at 10 anchors Russ Spencer and Cynne Simpson.
Emergency officials in Oconee, Clarke, Jackson, Madison, and Oglethorpe counties did not immediately report any damage or injuries associated with the storms.
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