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Tornado was EF2; 300 yards wide
Officials: Wind speeds reached 130 mph in twister
W 020917 TORNADO 03
Debris is shown on Old River Road near Lillie Hagan Road from the tornado that roared through the area Thursday morning. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

After completing an investigation of the tornado that ripped an 11-mile path from southern Bulloch County into Effingham County, National Weather Service experts listed the twister as an EF2 category storm.

The tornado had winds of 130 mph and was 300 yards wide as it furrowed a 10.6-mile path from 9 miles southwest of Brooklet to Pineora at 3:51 a.m. Thursday, according to official NWS reports provided to the Statesboro Herald by Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn.

The twister touched down near Stilson-Leefield Road, and “most of the damage within the first few miles of the event was due to many snapped and uprooted trees,” the report read.

The most significant damage was near the center of its path, just west of Old River Road North. Several mobile homes were either completely destroyed or severely damaged.

“The extent of damage to the mobile homes was the reason for the high end EF2 rating,” according to the report.

Two mobile homes just north of Lillie Hagan Road were “flipped and tossed 30 to 40 feet,” it read. One contained five people, as well as pets. All five were injured, including one woman who suffered broken bones in her neck. She was airlifted to a Savannah hospital, Wynn said on Thursday.

Two pets in the home were hurt, and one later died of its injuries, the report read.

Just down the road, the storm pushed a car 20 to 30 feet and flipped a large metal trucking container weighing 9,000 pounds, moving it 650 feet, reports stated. Another mobile home flipped and crushed two cars. Two people were inside the home, as well as a pet. The people suffered serious injuries, the report said.

Wynn said all seven victims were hospitalized. Six were sent to East Georgia Regional Medical Center, but while some were released after treatment, two were transferred to a Savannah hospital. None of the injuries were life-threatening, he said.

The victims’ conditions were unavailable on Friday.

The tornado crossed the Ogeechee River, where it continued on the ground, apparently slowing a bit and causing EF1 damage, according to the NWS report. It lifted just east of Highway 17 in Pineora, where it reportedly caused some minor structural damage.

Hundreds of trees were snapped or uprooted along the path of the storm, and Old River Road South was closed for some time while trees and debris were cleared.

Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown said deputies from his department, Bulloch County work crews, utility companies, Bulloch County firefighters and other first-responders were joined by local residents who pitched in to help clear the destruction.

The NWS report stated that all victims of the storm received alerts via their cellphones, which allowed them three to five minutes to prepare for the tornado.


Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.


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