Two tornadoes touched down Saturday night, causing damage to homes and transmission towers causing approximately 170,000 electric customers to be without power from Springfield to Hinesville.
Joe Calderone of the National Weather Service in Charleston, S.C., said the first tornado touched down northeast of Springfield at 9:43 p.m. and traveled for approximately 2.5 miles before lifting.
The tornado destroyed three mobile homes and damaged between three and four dozen homes. It also knocked down 15 high voltage transmission towers, destroyed or damaged approximately 20 vehicles and a number of sheds and barns.
The tornado injured five people when it blew over the mobile home they were in and rolled a couple times. A sixth injury occurred when a motorist ran into a fallen tree.
The tornado was a quarter of a mile wide at the widest point. It was an EF2 with wind speed between 110 and 120 miles per hour.
The second tornado developed at approximately 9:43 p.m. two miles northeast of Rincon and northwest of the Georgia Power McIntosh plant. The tornado traveled approximately one-half mile in the course of a couple of minutes.
Jeff Wilson of Georgia Power said the tornado knocked down three transmission lines and damaged more than 15 structures. It disrupted power service to approximately 170,000 customers between Springfield and Hinesville.
Wilson said there were crews working throughout the day Sunday restoring approximately 1,000 customers with power at a time.
“Everyone affected by the transmission lines was restored by (Sunday) afternoon,” Wilson said.
The remainder of customers without power due to damage at the plant had power restored by Sunday night.
Calderone said the winds in the tornado that hit the plant were 120-130 mph. It was also rated an EF2.
The tornado caused approximately $2 million to $3 million in damages to the plant. The tornado was 100 yards wide at its widest point.
County Fire Chief Val Ashcraft said there were five people taken to Memorial Health University Medical Center, but there were no critical injuries or deaths from the storm.
For those driving during severe weather conditions, Ashcraft said the biggest problem is water.
“Any hole can become a pool,” he said. There is then the possibility of being trapped in a vehicle in standing water.
“If you can’t see the road, don’t drive,” he said.
Ashcraft said there are “narrow corridors” on roads in the county, and there have been people killed in the past by falling trees.
If you are driving down a roadway when the lights go out, it is important to be aware of intersections.
“To me an intersection, becomes a four-way stop,” Ashcraft said.
He said many people become nervous during the storm and decide to leave to go to another location.
“They are in more danger on the road than where they were,” Ashcraft said.
He said many people will drive after the main portion of the storm has gone through an area, which leaves them open to driving over limbs, boards with nails or other debris that is on the roadway.
He said when people go to observe the damage, they hinder the progress of workers in the area by blocking in utility trucks, or having car accidents from paying attention to the damage and not the vehicle on the roadway in front of them.
“It’s best to stay home and hope the best for your neighbors,” Ashcraft said.
He said people should use the media to find out about the damage in order to allow crews to work quickly and effectively.
He said it is important to have your plan in place before the storm.
“If you’re on a roadway, slow down and take deliberate action,” Ashcraft said.
He said where there is a wide area power outage, it becomes easy for people to lose landmarks and to turn on wrong roads, or turn the wrong way on a road.
When possible, it is best to stay off the roadways during the storm and power outage.