A powerful storm system — including three tornadoes — swept through North Georgia late Monday, sending trees into roads, damaging homes and businesses, knocking out power to thousands and leaving behind a path of incredible devastation in one south Fulton County neighborhood.
More than 174 severe weather reports of large hail, damaging wind and tornadoes came in Monday, according to Channel 2 Action News. The National Weather Service confirmed three tornadoes — one in south Fulton County and two in Haralson County — touched down late Monday evening.
An EF-2 tornado, which has potential winds between 111 and 135 mph, touched down between Fairburn and Campbellton, according to the NWS. The storm damaged 50 homes with winds reaching 120 mph.
“The severe thunderstorm and tornado threat is over in North Georgia,” Channel 2 meteorologist Brian Monahan said early Tuesday. “But the cleanup is about to get underway.”
In Cobb County, a tree crashed into a home on Glenroy Place. Lightning caused two house fires in Gwinnett County. And in Clayton County, a fire damaged an eight-unit apartment in the 7200 block of Tara Boulevard.
Food, shelter and other essentials were provided for 17 people affected by the apartment fire, American Red Cross of Georgia spokeswoman Sherry Nicholson said.
But the most severe damage was reported in south Fulton, which saw “unbelievable” destruction, according to state Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens.
A tornado tore through the Jumpers Trail neighborhood off Campbellton Fairburn Road in Fairburn, blowing off the side of Thomas Correa’s daughter’s bedroom. Correa’s daughter is a student at Kennesaw State University and was not home at the time.
Marta Correa brings out her daughter’s clothing from a closet. A tornado blew off the side of the bedroom. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM
While there were no reports of injuries, the storm ripped roofs off houses, knocked homes off their foundations and damaged cars.
Hudgens said he was amazed no one was injured. He was on the scene to help residents connect with their insurance agents and the commissioner’s office.
“You see one house that doesn’t have much damage,” Hudgens said. “Yet you see another one that looks like it’s going to have to be just totally torn down and started over.”
Ontario Alvarez was at his mother’s home in the 7100 block of Jumpers Trail with his 13-year-old brother when the storm moved in late Monday.
Cal Welk with Champion Construction looks at damage on Jumpers Trail in Fairburn. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM
Credit: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM
Credit: JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM
To protect the family, he dragged a mattress into a bathroom, where everyone hid to avoid the storm’s path.
“We’re from Florida, so we’re used to hurricanes,” Alvarez said. “But this was different. We didn’t see it coming. We didn’t know what to do.”
Ontario Alvarez surveys storm damage in front of his mother's house on Jumpers Trail in Fairburn. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM
Ashli Andrews said she tracked the weather all day and lined a bathtub with a blanket in preparation for a possible tornado.
After about 11 p.m., Andrews made use of that planning, ushering her 2-year-old daughter, mother and sister inside the bathroom.
“The hail came in really, really hard,” she said. “I mean busting the windows, you name it.”
The storm shifted her home off its foundation in what sounded like a roar, Andrews said. Parts of the second-floor ceiling caved in and water damage was reported.
“It was just really, really scary,” she said. “The only thing I could do is just thank God that we made it out because not a lot of people can make it out of things like this.”
In Haralson County, officials received multiple reports of downed trees and power outages as winds intensified about 10 p.m. Monday.
Fire Chief Brian Walker said trees fell on about 25 homes, including five at a trailer park on Riverside Lane.
One home caught fire when a family lit a candle for light. Damage was minor and no one was injured, Walker said.
In another incident, a woman and her father were taken to a local hospital after a tree crashed into their Tallapoosa Street home in Buchanan. Although the daughter has been released from the hospital, the father is still there, Walker said. His injuries are critical.
It was also a close call for "American Idol" hopeful Andrew Weaver, whose home was caught in Monday's storm. Weaver made it to Hollywood in the March 12 episode, so he was home watching other contestants try their luck.
“So, I was watching this guy. He was singing on the piano,” Weaver told Channel 2. “And all of a sudden, (Channel 2 Chief Meteorologist) Glenn Burns came on.”
Once Burns announced that Haralson County was under a tornado warning, Weaver’s family took cover. They were safe, but their neighbors’ home was struck by lightning.
“Last night was scary,” Weaver said. “As they predicted on the news, one of the biggest storms we've seen in this region in a long time.”
Haralson County and Bremen City district officials canceled school and activities Tuesday.
Earlier, more than 3,000 Georgia Power customers in Fulton and Haralson counties and 13,000 Georgia EMC customers were without power. By 9 p.m., those numbers were down to 10 and zero, respectively.
Traffic lights were out and roads in parts of Atlanta were blocked early Tuesday, including Northside Drive at Peachtree Battle Avenue, Defoors Ferry Road at Bohler Road and Hollowell Parkway at Hollywood Road.
South Fulton Parkway was closed at Winstar Lane as crews worked to clear trees, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Downed trees and power lines also affected MARTA bus routes Tuesday, according to the agency.
— Staff writer Raisa Habersham contributed to this article.
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