Straight line winds and a “weak” tornado were the cause of damages early Friday morning in Tifton and Tift County, says Tift County Emergency Management Agency Director Jason Jones.
It was determined the damage near Highway 82 and Carpenter Road was caused by a “small, weak tornado” according to the National Weather Service. The tornado moved from west to east, just south of Highway 82. The funnel’s path was a mile long, and ended near Walmart.
The estimated speed of the tornado was 85 to 90 miles per hour.
Jones said the other damage in Tift County was attributed by the NWS to be straight line winds, which were estimated to have come through the area at a speed of about 70 miles per hour.
At approximately 8:30 a.m., Jones said he was notified about the weather conditions, and the storm moved quickly through, lasting only about five to 10 minutes. The damages ranged from the areas of Beech Street all the way out to Nashville-Isabella Road and between William Gibbs Road and Salem Church Road. Pitts Mobile Home Park on Highway 82 also received damages. There were some damages to the mobile homes that were not occupied.
As The Gazette took to the roads to take photos, damages were evident at structures such as some of Lowe’s storage buildings, Yancey Truck Center on Carpenter Road, Diamond Exposure Academy’s new facility on Marshall Drive and Brother Charlie’s Rescue Center on Beech Street.
Craig Tibbetts, manager of Yancey Truck Center, said the roofing on the back corner of his building was blown off and thrown into some trees in the back, as well as a steam cleaner. He noted that one of his drivers was outside unloading her truck during the chaos. He said she took shelter inside her truck and was pretty shaken up afterward. Tibbetts said the building was without power for a while, so he sent his employees home. He said they also received some damage to their service bay doors.
The tin roof at Brother Charlie’s slid off, and part of the roof was blown into a neighbor’s yard across the street. Residents there said they heard the tin falling and went into the hallway for safety. They said everything happened quickly within minutes. A woman who lives behind the center said she heard the noise and thought that a tree had hit a nearby house.
Josh Haynes, owner of Diamond Exposure Academy, said they were in the process of moving from their old facility nearby, located off of Highway 82 near UPS, to their new facility on Marshall Drive, which was damaged by the storm. But Haynes remains positive.
“It could have been worse,” he said, looking at the facility, which was lying on the ground in ruins. He added they will be OK as they continue to pursue moving to that location.
Other damages included downed trees and power lines. Jones said the damages were not constrained to one specific area. No one was injured,and all roads in the county remained open. However, some streets in the city were closed due to power lines being down but were expected to open soon.
Jones said overall damages were minimum to moderate.
Although EMA has classified Friday morning’s storm as straight line winds, Jones said the National Weather Service would be providing their input after evaluating damages. The Service was scheduled to arrive in Tifton at 2 p.m. Friday to evaluate.
To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.