The reported EF-2 tornado cut a swath along the Ga. Highway 140 corridor, according to Adairsville Police Chief Robert Jones. The majority of the damage was centered in the area of the intersection of Highway 140 and U.S. Highway 41.
Touching down about 11:30 a.m., the twister left a trail of homes and businesses partially or completely destroyed, the roadways and ground littered with downed trees and power lines. At 9 p.m. Georgia Power reported more than 15,000 people without power statewide, 4,400 in northwest Georgia.
A gas leak in the aftermath near Noland and McKenzie streets sparked concerns over live lines mixing with the gas and combusting.
Jones confirmed early Wednesday afternoon that one person was killed at a South Cass Street address.
Bartow County Coroner Joel Guyton identified the deceased as 51-year-old Anthony Raines, of 105 Cass St.
Cartersville Medical Center Director of Marketing and Public Relations Ginger Tyra said the facility received three patients — two women treated for head injuries and released, and a male who was deceased on arrival.
Bartow County Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Millsap said Wednesday evening 15 people were transported by EMS, including the fatality, and several homes were damaged — 13 severe, 19 moderate and 47 minor.
He said once crews were able to get a better handle on the assessment, a financial estimate would be released, possibly as early as today.
The damage prompted Gov. Nathan Deal late Wednesday afternoon to declare a state of emergency in Bartow and Gordon counties.
For those in the path, Wednesday’s storm was like none they have ever experienced.
Cherry Street resident Alecia Jones, who was watching the weather reports on TV, hid in the hallway with her granddaughter as the funnel passed overhead.
Jones said she thought, “I’m going to die,” as she huddled in the passageway.
“I was more worried about my granddaughter than I was myself,” she said. “I haven’t ever seen anything like this in my life. … The sirens didn’t go off or nothing.”
Emergency personnel began arriving within minutes, with a Bartow County Sheriff’s Office deputy relaying to E911 dispatch as the funnel passed over his head at the intersection of highways 140 and 41.
Just before noon, ambulances began arriving with Bartow County EMS personnel going house to house along with other emergency personnel.
“The sheriff’s office is giving us a good hand,” Robert Jones said. “The fire department [and] EMS are really helping us out a lot to try to supplement what we’ve got here. We all rely on one another at times.”
At 9 p.m. Jones said the list of assisting agencies was extensive, including all local departments and numerous from surrounding counties. A Georgia Search and Rescue unit began canvassing the hard-hit area about 3 p.m.
Initial reports that came in detailed people trapped in homes and buildings, including five at Daiki Corp. on Adairsville Highway.
Employees inside the building, which suffered extensive damage, were able to exit once the storm passed and make it next door to NorthSide Bank, said NorthSide’s Acting President Mark Swanson.
Swanson and other bank employees had monitored the weather and sought shelter as the storm barreled toward the business.
“We had several people monitoring the weather reports and actually a few folks were stationed watching the weather physically come in, and we started getting some text messages and alerts and whatnot and somebody spotted a funnel cloud forming just south of here. We all started piling in the vault,” he said.
Upstairs, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Barry Adcock ducked into an office as the funnel approached.
“… My wife works right down the street, and when I saw it coming, my first thought was make sure my wife knows it’s coming because she’s about 300 yards that way,” Adcock said. “I sent her a quick text message, and [when] I looked up and saw swirling debris above Daiki is when I ducked and went into an interior office on the second floor. That’s where I knelt down and just said a prayer for God to protect us all, and he did.”
To the south, Terry Edwards and two others were huddled under the desk of his mechanic business on Highway 41 next to Adairsville Supermarket.
Edwards’ business and the adjoining store were leveled. He, along with his mother and a friend, were unharmed.
“Nobody’s even scratched,” he said.
Although Alecia Jones said the storm sounded like a freight train, most reported feeling the building shake.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say it sounded like a train; it was just the sensation of the vibration of the building. The entire building was vibrating,” Adcock said.
“The building just started shaking and that was it,” Edwards said.
Already in the area, Commissioner Steve Taylor was on scene almost immediately.
“I was up here when it hit. Randy Gray and I were riding the roads just about four miles east of here when it hit,” he said. “The county is going to offer all the support that’s needed. Of course, it’s in the city of Adairsville, but we are going to offer all the support that is needed as far as helping them with their roads and getting their infrastructure back in place.”
Rumors swirled Wednesday concerning whether sirens had sounded and the number of cars overturned on Interstate 75.
Both Robert Jones and Millsap said the sirens were activated prior to the storm.
“The majority of people we spoke with reported hearing it,” Millsap said, adding that E911 sets off the system each time a warning is issued for the area.
As for the overturned vehicles, which had been reported as high as 100, the Georgia Department of Transportation early Wednesday evening said only one vehicle overturned — a tractor-trailer — which forced a road closure for about 45 minutes.
Sheriff Clark Millsap enforced a curfew Wednesday night, limiting those allowed out between dusk and dawn to emergency personnel.
Robert Jones said the curfew would be enforced tonight and as necessary in the coming days.
An emergency shelter was established at the Manning Mill Road gym for those displaced by the storm. For more information on assistance or donations, see today’s edition of The Daily Tribune News.