Posted: Thursday, January 31st 2013 at 3:18pm
NW Ga. storm damage put at $75M; Gainesville fared 'very well'
By The Associated Press
ADAIRSVILLE, Ga. (AP) -- Georgia's fire and insurance commissioner put the initial damage estimate from Wednesday's tornadoes in northwest Georgia at $75 million.
The twisters struck Calhoun and Adairsville.
State Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Ralph Hudgens said Wednesday the $75 million estimate is for insured losses.
“That figure will rise as new claims are reported,” Hudgens said.
National Weather Service crews were also out Thursday, assessing storm damage in the two communities. Crews were also planning to assess damage from possible tornadoes in Floyd, Paulding and Gilmer counties before confirming how many tornadoes struck the state Wednesday, a spokesman said.
Meanwhile, in Gainesville and other parts of northeast Georgia, torrential rains were the problem, causing some street flooding and flooding a mobile home park in the city's south side. (See separate story.) Rainfall amounts in the immediate Gainesville area included 2.26 inches in Gainesville at the airport, 2.41 inches at radio station WCON in Cornelia, and 1.48 inches in Sugar Hill. There were no reports of any wind damage in the Gainesville area. The top wind gust at the Gainesville airport was 34 miles-an-hour.
Gainesville's mayor noted Thursday that the town weathered the storm that caused heavy damage and death elsewhere in Georgia. Danny Dunagan said all that runoff was a bit too much for the city's drainage system.
"There's just not much you can do about it when you have that much rain that quick," Dunagan said. "We had some minor flooding but really, we fared very well."
In Adairsville, 51-year-old Anthony Raines was killed when a tree crashed onto his mobile home. Several injuries were also reported.
About 9,600 customers remained without power early Thursday morning, with 2,500 of them in the northwest part of the state, Georgia Power reported.
By 5 a.m. Thursday, Georgia's electric membership cooperatives had reduced the number of its customers without power to fewer than 5,000 in north Georgia -- down from 14,000 Wednesday.
About 10 people stayed overnight at a shelter in hard-hit Adairsville, American Red Cross spokesman Ruben Brown said early Thursday. The Red Cross has opened a second shelter at a Baptist Church in Calhoun, Brown said.
The Red Cross has emergency vehicles in the areas and plans to pinpoint where needs are greatest as it decides how long the shelters will continue to operate, said Red Cross spokeswoman Sherry Nicholson.
"During disasters these things are fluid," she said. "We'll see what happens today and see if the need continues."
The strength of winds in the storm system that struck Georgia was "extremely unusual," the National Weather Service said in an analysis of what happened. Though the line of storms was weakening, very strong winds near the surface continued.
"Being so close to the ground, these winds would be able to reach the surface and were largely independent of the individual storm strength, meaning severe winds would be possible regardless of the storm intensity," the weather service said in its storm analysis.
Also, despite an overall weakening trend in the line of storms, "we still had healthy storms as the line moved into western Georgia with sufficient lift to take advantage low level wind shear and produce the unfortunate Adairsville tornado."
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