Catastrophic damage after tornado strikes overnight in Georgia

Tim Fitzsimons and Phil Helsel
·2 min read

An overnight tornado caused catastrophic damage to a city near Atlanta after severe weather and multiple tornadoes raked both Georgia and Alabama, authorities said Friday.

The downtown area of Newnan was struck by what authorities said appeared to be a long-lasting tornado that caused EF-2 levels of damage or greater. That level brings wind speeds of 111 to 135 mph that can shift houses off their foundations, remove large sections of roofs and demolish mobile homes, among other destructive results.

NBC News affiliate WXIA reported that the high school sustained what officials described as an "overwhelming" amount of damage. The school district canceled classes Friday morning. Newnan is a city of nearly 40,000 people southwest of Atlanta.

In a tweet, Gov. Kemp said he would visit Coweta County, where Newnan is located, on Saturday to offer aid and survey the storm damage.

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One person died from a medical emergency in Coweta County, and medical workers were unable to reach the area because of the severe weather, adding to the five Alabama residents who were confirmed dead Thursday after the same string of storms and tornadoes swept over that state.

The National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, reported midday Friday that two of the confirmed tornadoes that touched down in the state were "at least" EF-2 strength.

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In a news release tweeted on Friday, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office said two separate tornadoes had caused catastrophic damage in Ohatchee and Eagle Point.

All five Alabama deaths were in Calhoun County, whose coroner said four people died in Ohatchee — James William Geno, 72; Joe Wayne Harris, 74; Ebonique Harris, 38; and Barbara Harris, 69 — and one person, Emily Myra Wilborn, 72, died in Wellington.

NBC News affiliate WVTM reported on preliminary data that showed 19 tornadoes struck central Alabama on Thursday.

Just last week, severe weather swept through Alabama and other parts of the South, causing more than two dozen tornadoes and damaging and destroying homes.

The storms that began March 17 produced 25 tornadoes in Alabama, according to a National Weather Service survey report. Three injuries were reported in the state.