Pickens County Fire Chief, Bob Howard / Photo The upside down floor of this house trailer (center) was all that remained after the storm. See page 23A for more photos of the damage and cleanup.
In a final count, 121 residences were identified as damaged or destroyed by the tornado that hit April 27 in the Bryant Road-Childers Lane area of west Pickens County.
Of those homes, 23 are considered totally destroyed; 49 taking major damage (anything estimated at more than $10,000 to repair); the rest losing shingles, porches or suffering roof damage. Numbers could change slightly, depending on what insurance companies determine.
Pickens County Fire Chief Bob Howard said work done by county personnel, including building inspectors, who went door-to-door, found 75 percent of homeowners with damaged properties did not have insurance.
When building inspectors made their first damage reports at a meeting last Thursday, they noted in some cases the destruction was so severe they couldn’t tell what kind of house had been there before the tornado hit.
Captain Frank Reynolds of the Pickens County Sheriffs Office described the scene on Bryant Road early on the morning following the storm as “complete devastation.”
Damage came from a single EF-3 tornado, which arrived with the first storm band Wednesday. Three tornadoes crossed through Pickens County starting about 9 p.m. Wednesday, but only the first touched down here, according to storm experts.
The other two twisters that formed crossed through the county in the air. The storms here were part of a massive “mega storm” that killed more than 300 in the southeastern United States and destroyed whole communities in other areas. In Georgia the counties to the west of Pickens took the brunt of the storm.
Fire Chief Howard said a fly-over by helicopter in the area where the tornado touched down and beyond made it clear the storm that did damage here had created a line of destruction more than 20 miles long leading into the county. In places the twister cut a swath of downed trees and destroyed homes more than a half-mile wide, he said.
The destroying storm lifted up while still west of Jerusalem Church Road and crossed out of the county in the air but touched down again in other Georgia counties to the east and created more damage in North Carolina.
Allen Wigington, center, is sworn in as the Chief Magistrate Judge by Probate Judge Rodney Gibson as his wife, Rosie, holds the Bible.
Allen Wigington, who has served as both sheriff’s deputy and magistrate here, was sworn in as Pickens County’s Chief Magistrate Judge in front of a full courtroom on Wednesday, April 27.
Wigington will fill the unexpired term of former chief magistrate, Larry Ray, that term ending December 31, 2012.
Ray retired on April 25 of this year following his 65th birthday. He served 20 years as chief magistrate judge in Pickens County.
The chief magistrate judge is an elected position, but in the event the office is left vacant, Superior Court judges from the district appoint a replacement.
Board member Mark Dickerson presenting the history and accomplishments of the past 20 years.
By Vered Kleinberger
The Mountain Conservation Trust of Georgia (MCTGA) hosted its 6th Annual Spring Celebration this past Saturday, April 30. Members enjoyed a beautiful sunny day on the shores of Grandview Lake, feasted on delicious food and reconnected with friends and neighbors.
MCTGA is commemorating its 20th anniversary this year, so the Spring Celebration provided the perfect atmosphere for continuing the festivities. Board Chairman Roger Schultz welcomed the crowd of members and guests and thanked the Grandview community for their efforts in making the Celebration a success.
Longtime MCTGA member and current Board member Mark Dickerson presented the history and accomplishments of the past 20 years. The trust had humble beginnings....a group of residents who were concerned with preserving the beautiful places in our region began meeting and discussing available options. Burnt Mountain was in danger of being logged, which would have been unsightly, but would also negatively impact water quality and wildlife corridors. They were successful in conserving this property, which is now known as the Burnt Mountain Preserve. This led to the formation of the Oglethorpe Wilderness Land Trust, later to be renamed the Mountain Conservation Trust of Georgia. To date, more than 2,000 acres have been preserved in North Georgia through the efforts of the dedicated Board and staff of MCTGA. For a comprehensive history of MCTGA, please see their most recent newsletter, available on their Web site, www.mctga.org.
Crystal Buckingham displaying her leadership skills through her work with Pickens Family Partners.
Youth volunteers are a growing trend. Youth provide enthusiasm, energy and excitement for projects when asked to provide leadership for community endeavors. In turn, the youth are able to develop valuable life skills including planning, conducting, implementing and evaluating projects. In some community projects, youth may discover future career avenues and gain experience in these fields.
Recently Crystal Buckingham, 9th grader at Pickens High School, traveled to the University of Georgia to compete for recognition in the area of community service. Georgia 4-H has a program called Leadership in Action that recognizes the work that Junior and Senior 4-H’ers do as leaders in their communities.
The purpose of the program is to motivate and encourage youth to become active and engaged in local issues and initiatives. Pickens County is part of the Northeast District which had the more teen leaders in grades 9-12 participating in this competition than any other district in Georgia. Projects ranged from acts of kindness to our military, animal rescue, and teaching elementary school children in after school programs all involving hundreds of volunteer hours.
Students had to complete a typed record of their project in the form of answers to open ended questions and support it with pictures and newspaper articles. After submission of their written work, 4-H’ers had to travel to the University of Georgia for an interview with judges. Crystal completed a detailed record of her work with Pickens Family Partners, the Appalachian Judicial Circuit and her after school club called Clover Buddies.
All of these combined helped her to become victorious as one of the two representatives chosen to represent the Northeast district at the state level in the summer. To discover more about Crystal’s project you can look at her Web site: projectthanks.yolasite.com
County officials surveying the storm hit areas of Pickens County had identified more than 100 homes that were damaged. As of late Thursday, 18 were already considered totally destroyed with another 40 still not assessed. It was estimated that 40 percent of those affected had insurance.
Above, residents on Bryant Road begin clean-up work in an area one emergency worker termed, "devastation."