Cleanup continues after more than 1,700 homes damaged in Coweta tornado

Caption
Cleanup from the tornado in Coweta County will continue for weeks, with state and county crews working 12 hours a day to remove trees and an estimated 500,000 cubic yards of debris.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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The powerful tornado that ripped through Coweta County two weeks ago damaged 1,744 homes, destroying 70 of them, county leaders said this week.

As cleanup efforts continue, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is also assessing the damage to determine whether the county should be declared a disaster area and eligible for federal funds, Coweta EMA Director Michael Terrell said Wednesday.

It’s not yet known how much all of the repairs and rebuilding will cost, as damage assessments are preliminary, county leaders said. But Terrell said the cleanup will continue for weeks, with state and county crews working 12 hours a day to remove trees and an estimated 500,000 cubic yards of debris.

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“We have not even started collecting construction debris,” he said.

Late on March 25, an EF4 tornado with winds up to 170 mph hit south of Atlanta in a path through Heard, Coweta and Fayette counties, according to the National Weather Service. The Newnan area was the hardest hit, including the city’s high school.

“We have a line of damage across the entire county,” Terrell said.

Despite the tremendous damage, Terrell said it is remarkable that no injuries were reported.

The storm did play a role in the death of a 56-year-old man who suffered a heart attack after walking to check on his daughter. The tornado that struck the Newnan area minutes earlier made many roads impassable and delayed paramedics from reaching Barry Martin, who died after the medical emergency.

Caption
Aerial photographs show the aftermath of the tornado that tore through Newnan on March 25.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

While recovery efforts continue, Coweta leaders say they are grateful for the outpouring of support from neighboring counties, law enforcement agencies and nonprofit groups. Donations have been plentiful and additional items are currently not needed, Terrell said.

The Coweta fairgrounds are open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to provide needed items to residents. Non-perishable food, showers, laundry facilities and mental health services are being offered, a county spokeswoman said.

But with dozens of homeowners facing the costs of damage repairs and insurance deductibles, there likely will be a continued need to help those in the storm’s path.

For those who would like to donate, the Coweta Community Foundation is accepting monetary donations online.