Early Sunday morning, a stretch of the southern part of Bulloch County running parallel to Highway 46 near Nevils-Denmark Road got quite a jolt. The swath of severe weather that cut across Georgia left damaged homes in the Nevils area and even sent a school bus partly up a tree. Residents were still stunned by the damage Monday.
It all seemed to start in Bulloch County at Wilbur Lanier’s nursery around 8 a.m. Wilbur and his wife Lottie were inside when the weather hit.
Lottie Lanier said, “I heard a strange noise, like a roaring.”
“I’d barely had time to take 10 steps when we felt the house jolt and then I felt a breeze,” Wilbur said. “I knew something was wrong, because all the windows were closed. We went to the back bathroom, and we couldn’t believe what we saw. One of our trees was sticking right through the bathroom wall. I looked outside and saw that all but one of our greenhouses were either damaged or destroyed. Pieces of the cover could be seen hanging way up in the trees all the way across the field.”
Not far away, Paul and Gail Harmon were getting dressed for church when Gail said she got a call "telling me to get to safety.”
Paul Harmon said he went over and looked out the laundry room window, and “saw that everything was going crazy outside. The rain was whirling about in every direction but we didn’t really hear anything. Before we knew it, it was all over. We went outside and couldn’t believe what we saw.”
“There were huge trees down everywhere," Gail Harmon said. "I counted at least 16 of them.”
The Harmon's neighbors the Andersons had an even closer encounter. Jeannie and Brad Anderson were still in bed when they heard something strange.
“The wind was blowing. It (the noise) is still going through my head. I’ll never forget that noise,” Brad Anderson said.
Jeannie said “I was laying in bed listening to things hit the roof. I got up and looked out the window. When I noticed that the azaleas were being blown flat against the ground I started yelling. He looked at me and said 'I think it’s a tornado' and at that moment the tree came crashing through the bedroom roof.”
Country Girls Café
Over at the Country Girls Café, owners Debra Warnell Shuman and Rachel Warnell Cobb were getting geared up for their first ever Mothers Day Feast.
Angela Warnell, who works as a waitress at the café, said: ”I was fixing my breakfast, as I’d already served the six customers in the restaurant. I looked out the back door, and saw all this stuff flying around. I started screaming when I heard a noise that sounded just like a train was coming down the tracks and I knew that meant trouble because there are no tracks anywhere near here.”
Debra Warnell was amazed so much damage could be caused so quickly.
“It couldn’t have lasted more than 15 seconds, and then it was over,” she said. Trees lay everywhere, piled on top of each other.
Across Highway 67 sits Billy Lanier’s farm. Even from the road it's easy to spot something isn’t quite right. First, an old yellow school bus sits at a 45-degree angle on the root-ball of an overturned tree. The top of that same tree has crashed through a trailer, smashing through in several places. Behind that is a medium size grain silo leaning over at a precarious angle. The work sheds behind the trailer are torn up and covered with broken limbs.
“I lived here all my life and I’ve never seen damage such as this except on TV," Lanier said. "I was driving when I got a call from my dad saying that there was a storm coming. Unbelievable!”
Happy Turn Farm
Down Highway 46 several miles sits the Old Happy Turn Farm, owned by Chuck and Tessa Martin. Deweese Martin said that the Zetterower family home had managed to survive almost everything that nature threw at it in the past.
“My grandmother Zetterower was raised here," he said. "It was old, but it was in good shape, but not any more. The roof is gone, as are all the rafters, and the kitchen around the back is destroyed.”
Even worse, he said was the new 40 by 70 foot building that they had just completed last week.
“We worked all winter long on that thing," he said. "We just got permanent power and even water hooked up, and now it’s totally gone.”
He looked out into the fields, and pointed out two big irrigation pivots. Ten of the 11 sections had turned upside down and twisted like they were straws.
Chuck Martin's son John explained what happened Sunday.
“The wind was blowing pretty hard so I looked out the window. Just at that moment the window I was looking out blew in. I ran to the bathroom, and immediately laid down on top of dad and mama. I felt some really good suction all of a sudden, the house started shaking really bad, and then everything got real quiet.”
He said that after a few minutes they all got up and went outside. They were stunned by the destruction they saw. As had the Andersons, Harmons Laniers, and the Warnells, the Martins immediately thanked God for allowing them to survive. The material stuff, John Martin said, could easily be replaced.