Bert Kammer looks over the remains of his daughter's home in Ringgold. Kammer's daughter and son-in-law were thrown several feet from their house during the storm but survived. At least 4 nearby neighbors were killed.
Wednesday night’s tornado that killed eight people in northwest Georgia’s Catoosa County was a rare EF4 twister that packed winds of 175 mph.
"EF4 tornadoes are very rare in Georgia," the National Weather Service said in a preliminary report on the historic tornado outbreak.
After surveying the 13-mile path of damage near Ringgold, the Weather Service said the tornado was only the eighth twister of that strength to strike Georgia since 1950.
Tornadoes are rated between 0 and 5 on the "Enhanced Fujita" scale, with an EF5 having wind speeds greater than 200 mph and an EF4 packing winds of 166 to 200 mph.
The Weather Service said the Catoosa tornado that hit about 8:15 p.m. Wednesday was one-third mile long, and damaged or destroyed 75 to 100 homes, including a dozen along Cherokee Valley Road that were obliterated.
After tearing through homes and businesses in Catoosa, the tornado continued across the state line into neighboring Hamilton County, Tenn., where eight people died in the tiny community of Apison.
About three hours before Catoosa was hit, an EF3 tornado with winds of 150 mph tracked into Georgia from Alabama and tore a .6-mile wide, 18 mile path through Dade and Walker counties in the northwest corner of the state, killing two people in Dade.
Closer to Atlanta, Bartow, Cherokee and Pickens counties were struck around 9:30 p.m. by the 150 mph winds of an EF3 tornado that cut a path that was 23 miles long and a half-mile wide.
A different tornado, this one rated an EF2 with winds up to 125 mph, tore though parts of Polk, Floyd and Bartow counties between 8:45 and 9:25 p.m., the Weather Service said. That storm left a path of damage 26 miles long and a half-mile wide.
In the northeast corner of the state, an EF3 tornado with winds of 165 mph touched down in Rabun County around 11 p.m., leaving a half-mile wide path of destruction from Lake Burton to Mountain City, a distance of 14 miles. One large home was blown off its foundation and into Lake Burton, the Weather Service said, and a building housing the local volunteer fire department was destroyed.
Later Wednesday night and into the early hours of Thursday, tornadoes took aim at counties south and east of Atlanta.
South of town, a tornado rated at EF3 ripped through Meriwether, Spalding and Henry counties just after midnight, the Weather Service said. That half-mile wide twister, with 140 mph winds, was on the ground for 20 miles.
Also south of Atlanta, Pike, Lamar, Monroe and Butts counties were hit shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday by an EF3 tornado that left a 30-mile path of destruction that was up to .6-mile wide.
On the east side of Atlanta, Newton, Morgan and Greene counties were hit after 1 a.m. by an EF1 tornado with winds estimated at 105 mph. That half-mile wide twister was on the ground for 25 miles.
Just before 4 a.m. Thursday, Warren County in east Georgia was struck by an EF1 tornado with winds of 105 mph that left a path of damage that was a quarter-mile wide and eight miles long.
When Georgia’s football team reconvened for bowl practice last weekend, coach Mark Richt didn’t have any special contrivances or complicated plots for getting his team motivated to play Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.
Enjoy expanded coverage of college football for UGa, Tech and the SEC, with our SEC Insider, covering all Southeastern Conference matchups and articles by AJC staff and regional newspapers that cover the SEC.