Updated Friday, 8 a.m.
A final count late Thursday indicated 442 residential structures and 30 commercial properties—not individual businesses—in Bartow County were damaged, The Daily Tribune News reports. Twenty-two homes and six commercial properties were completely destroyed.
The tornado that ripped through Adairsville produced winds in excess of 100 mph, damaging at least 97 structures, including homes and businesses.
Bartow County Fire Department Chief and Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Millsap said more than 30 of those buildings suffered severe damage and would be condemned or were totally destroyed. Less than 20 were moderately damaged, while the remainder suffered what Millsap described as more cosmetic damage, including lost shingles and siding.
"I saw it coming. I turned and ran and grabbed my mechanic and my wife. We went right around the corner in the garage; didn't have time to close the doors or anything. It came that quick and we shut shuttered," said Phil Ruff of Tri-Star Auto Repair on Highway 41 as he and helpers started cleaning up Thursday.
"And it was gone that quick. The building stood; the shingles on the back were taken off. The gentlemen in a trailer [nearby] was crushed and killed.... Horrifying. Seconds. Mere seconds gone. Horrifying."
The EF-3 tornado that produced 160 mph winds cut a 900-yard wide swath through nearly 22 miles of Bartow and Gordon counties, injuring a total of 17 people, in about 30 minutes, according to the National Weather Service's preliminary storm survey. It hit Adairsville the hardest along Highway 140 near its intersections with U.S. Highway 41 and Interstate 75.
"All the sudden it turned black looking," said Phillip Williams, who lived at Cass Street and MLK Drive in a house that no longer has a front porch. "I looked out and saw a tree rockin'.
"And then when I seen it start falling...I seen stuff just going around and around [in the air]."
It was a close call for many, including Elaine Cook's best friend.
"She hadn't been in the house 30 seconds until a [tree] came down and crushed her car," said Cook, who lives with Williams.
Cook said she didn't hear the county's tornado sirens, but was watching TV, which gave warning. Millsap said although officials have received reports of residents not hearing the tornado sirens—which are used mainly to warn people who are outside to seek shelter—they sounded in Adairsville.
"Our cars, our homes, we build those things soundproof and a lot of times when we have the TV going or something like that, you can't hear the sirens," Millsap said.
Some residents estimate the storm ripped through in 20 seconds. Nine people suffered non-life threatening injuries when the storm hit the area, including a motel and a manufacturing plant, Millsap said, CNN reports.
Curtis Chappell was a resident of a motel devastated in the storm. His wheelchair-bound wife was trapped in the rubble, he said. They're staying with relatives and aren't sure what the future holds.
"I just hope they have good insurance," he said.
Chappell managed to salvage a few belongings, including his grandson's guitar and a mandolin, but said authorities aren't allowing residents to pick through the debris.
While Red Cross was in the area with drinks and snacks, no other volunteers Thursday were along the strip of Highway 41 hit hardest. Ten people stayed at the organization's shelter at Manning Mill Park the night of the storm.
They needed food, clothing and medication, among other necessities.
Find more information on how you can help the victims on Facebook at the Adairsville Georgia Tornado Info page and the Adairsville GA Tornado Recovery page, which has information on the efforts of local churches.
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