August 4, 2021

NWS says historic EF-Tornado likely originated on Redland Road

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(Franklin, GA) — The National Weather Service says that an EF-4 tornado that slammed Coweta County overnight on Thursday and early Friday morning was one mile wide at its peak with maximum wind speeds at 170 mph and likely originated just west of Franklin near Redland Road.

The preliminarily report shows that the tornado could be the same one that moved through parts of Alabama as an EF-2.

The new details released today show the storm originated from a supercell thunderstorm that spawned a long-track tornado in Alabama just before 11:00 PM then lifted off the ground near the Alabama/Georgia state line.

Another tornado redeveloped around 11:37 PM near Redland Road and traveled almost 39 miles east-northeast through Coweta and Fayette Counties bringing a historic EF-4 tornado to the area.

After initially doing little damage on Redland Road, the tornado traveled east-northeast gradually gaining intensity and producing more widespread damage to trees and power poles on GA- 34 1.3 miles west of Franklin.

The tornado grew in size and strength as it entered Franklin and crossed the Chattahoochee River with winds around 130 mph and a path width around 850 yards or 1/2 mile.

The EF-4 tornado in Coweta County, Georgia, was the strongest tornado to hit the state in almost a decade and only the 10th EF4 or F4 tornado to tear through the state since 1950.

Damage in Franklin was extensive with several homes heavily damaged or destroyed primarily in the historic Newnan Street area. Two homes had roofs blown off completely, and a large stand of pine trees was completely snapped or uprooted on the north side of Franklin.

A large wall and roof at JAC Products on Mary Johnson Drive were ripped off. The tornado continued east-northeast south of GA-34 and crossed into Coweta County around 11:54 PM.

Several local businesses around downtown Franklin suffered damage in addition to the residences including Plasti-Paint, Stephens and Stephens Accountants, Petro Convenience Store, and J&J’s BBQ among others.

Luckily, no fatalities or serious injuries were reported in Franklin or Heard County from the storm. Neighbors and volunteers from several areas and surrounding counties banded together all weekend to help clean-up the storm damage in and around Franklin.

One of the residents of Newnan Street, Leigh Ann Rhodes recounted her harrowing experience as her home suffered extensive damage.

“The code red woke me up so I watched the news a little and could see the lightning in the distance. I thought it missed us and was headed back to bed. I was in the hallway and it hit,” said Rhodes.

“I managed to get in an interior closet but it was over almost as quickly as it started. It was dark and I had no idea what happened but could hear water pouring in the kitchen and I could feel a lot of air in the house. The ceiling started falling but I couldn’t get out of two of the doors. I was afraid to go out the front because of all of the pines but that was the only way out. Trees were everywhere and the porch was unstable.”

Rhodes says she and her rescue dog, Sadie, were extremely relieved to escape the structure and to see the Heard County EMS workers arrive later.

“Me and my trusty hound literally stood in a clear spot in the front yard until the fire department was able to get there. There was a small, clear path to the road but I couldn’t see it. It was the scariest time of my life — Trees were still falling and shifting and I could hear things falling in the house. Turns out it was the ceiling. The roof of my house was lifted down toward Hwy 34 I think,” Rhodes stated.

“I never heard the freight train nor any of those trees snapping. It was quiet but there was a weird pressure. Not sure how to describe it. Just knew something wasn’t right. I was shocked when I went back this morning and saw what actually happened.”

Another local resident, Simone Baldwin, told 11-Alive the story of how a neighbor helped rescue her from her home after the storm.

The Franklin Walking Trail suffered significant tree damage to the first 1/4 mile of trail near the City Park, and Mayor Kevin Hayes says the trail will be closed until the Corps of Engineers can inspect the full extent of the damage.

Heard County Fire Chief Steve Wirth says about 30-40 homes in Heard County suffered reported property damage. He says that everyone is encouraged to report any property damage they may have in order to assist with statistics and help with emergency funding that may be available for the community.

Homeowners can report damage by calling the EMS offices at 706-675-6186 during normal business hours.

Several roads including HWY 34 in downtown and the Franklin Parkway were closed over the weekend and numerous power outages were reported. As of Monday afternoon, most roads have been reopened and power restored.

Chairman Lee Boone says the county had to shut down a portion of Pea Ridge Road near Heard Elementary School and also had tree damage and road cleanup work to be done on Charlie B. Johnston Road near the Coweta County line.

Heard County schools were closed Friday and today but are expected to reopen normally tomorrow according to Superintendent Rodney Kay.

The Heard High baseball field suffered some minor damage, but otherwise Heard County schools were largely undamaged.

The track of the western portion of the storm remains under investigation for potentially merging the two tornadoes into a combined, single tornado path. If that merge were to occur, the combined path length would be approximately 75 miles.

Stay tuned to HeardCitizen.co for further information as it becomes available.

Comments

  1. Judy Miller says

    The front of World Finance on the square next to the Heard County School Board Office was badly damaged in the tornado also. The awning was torn off and the glass door and a large window were broken. Unidentified debris blocked the finance company building entrance and of the Stephens and Stephens business’ building. Repairs are under way, but World Finance is not able to reopen.

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