GA twisters slam homes

Before the tornado struck, Hoy Stanfield remembers hearing a horrible sound of rushing wind through the pine trees.

BY DANIEL YEE | TATE, GA | November 12, 2002

"I could hear her holler. I didn't know if she was hurt."

—Hoy Stanfield

Before the tornado struck, Hoy Stanfield remembers hearing a horrible sound of rushing wind through the pine trees.

The lights in his doublewide mobile home went off and then on again. When the twister hit, he dove into a side closet next to his bed.

And then he heard his wife, Bobbie, screaming.

"I could hear her holler," said Stanfield, 78. "I didn't know if she was hurt."

Early Monday morning, storms rushed through counties in northern Georgia, causing at least $5 million in property damage and destroying about 200 homes and buildings. Luckily, no one in the state was killed by the destruction, although several people were injured.

It was enough damage for Gov. Roy Barnes to declare on Tuesday a state of emergency in five counties. Additional storms Tuesday caused damage to homes in five more counties, this time in central Georgia.

On Tuesday, state emergency officials and faith-based volunteer groups set up a disaster recovery center in the town of Jasper to help those displaced by the storm and tornado damage, said Lisa Ray, spokeswoman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

Stanfield's community, about two miles west of the unincorporated town of Tate that's about 40 miles northwest of Atlanta, was the hardest hit.

A tornado destroyed a nearby family's trailer, scattering family members and furnishings dozens of feet away; the destructive force then sucked the roof and front off of a landmark barbeque restaurant, sucked a church's windows out and knocked the church's steeple into the baptism pool and destroyed four more homes, including Stanfield's.

"It's sad for somebody that age to have to start over again," said Stanfield's daughter, Carol Miller. Her mother, Bobbie, suffered a cut hand from a bedroom window that was destroyed by the tornado.

On Monday, Miller and relatives worked to salvage what was left of Stanfield's trailer. Some furniture was unscathed, but many items were lost.

"She had fixed it so pretty inside" with figurines, angels and pictures, Miller said. "Now you can't tell by the way it is now."

The 400-member congregation of Refuge Baptist Church, located a few doors away from Stanfield's trailer, now will have to gather in the chapel of a nearby funeral home for Sunday services until the tornado damage at the church is fixed.

Thankfully, said the Rev. Larry Johnson, "nobody was hurt. We just got a little rebuilding" to do.

Pieces of fiberglass insulation and sheet metal from destroyed homes wrapped around gravestones in the cemetery of the church, which was founded in 1853. In the early part of the last century, a tornado completely destroyed the congregation's second church, which was built out of logs. The current church was built in 1963 and still was damaged although it was solidly made of brick.

An interior hallway closet was the only part of Kristi Carroll's duplex that survived. Only the wooden skeleton of rooms and the open sky surrounded the closet. Carroll's dresser and armoire prevented her duplex's walls and ceilings from caving in on her.

"That's the safest room right there," said her stepfather, Jimmy Miller, pointing to the closet.

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