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Twister in Bulloch?
National Weather Service officials trying to determine if tornado touched down Sunday
A school bus is shown partially on top of an uprooted tree at the farm of Bill Lanier. The tree was uprooted during Sunday's severe weather. - photo by ROGER ALLEN/special

            National Weather Service agents are still working to determine whether a storm that ripped apart a mobile home in the Nevils area, as well as caused damage elsewhere in the county, was in fact a tornado.

            Pete Mohlin, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service in Charleston, said the storm that ripped Chuck Martin's mobile home from around his huddled family is still under investigation.

            Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn said officials were in Bulloch County Monday assessing storm damage and said it is believed the storm that destroyed the Old Happy Road home was likely the same one that touched down in the area of Interstate 16 and the Ga. 67 overpass, and destroyed several homes in Cobbtown as well.

            Wynn spoke with the Statesboro Herald around 7 :15 a.m. Sunday morning, and reported the Cobbtown damage, stating the county was sending assistance.'

            However, soon after ending the phone conversation with a reporter, he started getting phone calls about the storm damage in the Nevils and Brooklet areas, "between 7:15 and 7:30," he said.

            Crews from Bulloch County Public Works joined about 30 volunteer firefighters from various Bulloch County departments and began clearing roadways, including the following: Mag Davis, Old Happy Road, Red Hill Church Road, Davis Road, Black Creek Church Road,  Cecil Martin Road, Anderson Road, Too Short Road, and Starling Road.

            Bulloch County Public Safety set up a command post at Ga. 67 Antique Mall, Wynn said. While several area homes suffered some damage, no one was reported to be injured by the storm. A volunteer firefighter suffered a gash to the head that required stitches during the cleanup efforts, however, he said.

            The Georgia Department of Transportation joined the Statesboro and Bulloch County fire departments in the assistance efforts, he said.

            It appeared the same storm caused the damage to the Cobbtown, Interstate 16 and Nevils/Brooklet areas, he said. "They (weather officials) saw a distinct path."

            Bulloch County Fire Chief Randy Walker was on his way to Cobbtown to help when he received a call to head back home to the Nevils/Booklet area, Wynn said.

Home ripped from around family

    Chuck Martin was planning on running an errand, but the weather stopped him. "I was reaching for the door handle and things got kind of loud," he said. He told his family - wife Tessa and son John  - "I'd better not go now because I don't want y'all to blow away without me."He noticed his horses standing with their tails against the wind, but they kept turning around.

            "I knew the wind was changing direction," he said. Then the horses began running wildly and he knew something was wrong.

            He told his family to get in the bathroom, the smallest interior room in the house. At first, they didn't believe he was serious, but he convinced them, and they huddled on  the floor.

            "We were all kind of clumped together, and 15 second later, everything was gone."

            The roof of the mobile home was ripped away, but miraculously, no one was injured, he said. "It was like a nightmare."

            A historic old wood frame farm house was damaged, but what hurt was pivot systems and a new shed that had been built to withstand wind. They were mangled and destroyed, he said.

            "Everything I worked for 30 years is gone," Martin said. "The floor just started jumping up and down and I thought I was going to die."

            Martin's family has had a difficult time within the past few years. Daughter Maddeline Martin was killed in a vehicle crash in 2004 and Martin was diagnosed with cancer in 2005.

            "I'm starting to wonder what I am doing wrong," he said.

            Martin said the family recovered their clothing and spent Monday sifting through twisted and scattered debris, making " a good pile and a bad pile."

            The American Red Cross responded and provided the family a temporary place to live, as well as means of securing meals and other  needs, he said.

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