March 27, 2021 Newnan - Workers clean up destructed store at Mr. Carpet on Spence Avenue in the aftermath of the tornado that tore through the Newnan on Saturday, March 27, 2021. Storms that rolled through North Georgia late Thursday into Friday left a path of destruction, killing one person and injuring others. Most of metro Atlanta was spared from major damage, but Bartow and Polk counties - in northwest Georgia - and Coweta County south of Atlanta took the brunt of the impact. Late Friday, the National Weather Service said it was an EF4 tornado with 170-mph winds that hit Coweta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Most of metro Atlanta was spared from major damage, but Bartow and Polk counties ― in northwest Georgia ― and Coweta County south of Atlanta took the brunt of the impact. The National Weather Service said it was an EF4 tornado with 170 mph winds that hit Coweta.
On Saturday, Kemp and other officials toured Newnan High School. Principal Chase Puckett said the school withstood damage to each of its 13 buildings.
“I have great hope and optimism from the people that are here today that they’re not going to cry over spilled milk or knocked-down trees or damaged homes,” Kemp told reporters while standing in front of the damaged high school. “They’re gonna pull the bootstraps up and we’ll be there to help them, to rebuild and to continue on.”
The governor encouraged donations to groups helping the community but warned people “to be very careful about how you’re doing that.”
Georgia Emergency Management Agency Director Chris Stallings told the AJC on Saturday the top priorities were to clear roads of debris and restore electrical power to those still without it.
Authorities redirected motorists on several streets near the high school and the downtown area as huge trees lay on the asphalt. Twisted metal from some buildings wrapped around other trees. Sheet music from Newnan Presbyterian School stuck to tree limbs bunched together against the sidewalk.
The school messaged parents Friday asking for their help to clean up. More than a dozen parents and others used leaf blowers to collect limbs and debris while many kids played in the playground Saturday morning. Nikki Affleck gave her daughter, Bailey, 6, and son, Lawson, 5, the option of watching cartoons at home or helping.
“I chose helping,” Bailey said.
Nikki Affleck and her children, Bailey, 6, and Lawson, 5, help with clean up efforts from the recent tornado at the Newnan Presbyterian School on Saturday, March 27, 2021. ERIC STIRGUS/ESTIRGUS@AJC.COM.
State officials and residents expressed their gratitude for people who even traveled from Alabama and Tennessee to help. The Salvation Army and several food trucks offered meals and other assistance Saturday to families and volunteers.
Puckett, the Newnan High principal, said his major goals Saturday included deciding when they may be able to hold classes there and helping students who rely on getting their meals from the school system. The school has 2,340 students. About 65% of them were doing in-person learning.
“As heartbreaking as this is, we can replace buildings and we can replace stuff,” Puckett said. “We told our kids focus on you and your family and friends, and together we’ll figure out what we do next.”
Later Saturday, the county school district superintendent, Evan Horton, released a statement: “Due to the damage to our schools and the area surrounding them, both Newnan High School and Atkinson Elementary School will not hold classes virtually or in-person for the week of March 29, 2021 through April 2, 2021. The closure will also include the week of Spring Break. This will allow our staff, students and their families the opportunity to focus on recovery from Thursday’s storm and it will allow us time to develop plans for what instruction may look like for students for the next several weeks.”