Wayne County residents work to recover from EF-1 tornado

Wayne County residents work to recover from EF-1 tornado

WAYNE COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) -Neighbors in Odum continue clean up after an EF-1 tornado tore through the town Monday morning.

The National Weather Service says it had winds of up to 110 mph and traveled for more than 4.5 miles.

Wayne County EMA tells WTOC around 60 homes were destroyed. The director says it might take a few more weeks to assess all the damage.

EMA is driving around the county, but is having a difficult time finding affected areas in the more rural parts.

EMA Director Richard Johnson is asking anyone whose home was damaged to reach out by email or phone.

“We’d certainly love to have pictures, but absolutely we need their name, their address and contact number,” said Johnson.

That email is tornado2020odum@gmail.com. If you can’t email, call 912.427.5979.

The brothers of one of the homeowners say their sister’s home used to sit where a large pile of sand is. They say it was moved here by the tornado. Their sister was home when it happened. She was injured, but is recovering.

“My wife looked out the window and said my sister’s trailer is gone," said Michael Manners. "Rhonda’s trailer’s gone, she’s gone, but she wasn’t. So we’re really blessed and glad she’s here.”

Just a day ago a home sat here. Now all that’s left is the rosebush that sat by her front door. The door is across the yard in a pile of rubble from what once was a home. The woman inside was tossed by the storm too but walked out alive.

“From inside sleeping to standing outside after all this was over, it’s just the grace of God,” said Richard Trull.

Richard and Michael’s property is surrounded by 360 degrees of debris from the storm. It’s intensity easily seen by the roof thrown into their trees. Although they are picking up the ruins, they can’t help but feel blessed.

“Just the fact that I was able to pick up my sister and bring her up to the house and you know her banged up but still alive and feeling well you know and the fact that we’ve got good friends and neighbors you know that come by and lend a hand and all, you know property loss is just property loss,” Richard says.

Wayne and Glynn County EMA officials assessed properties acoss town on Tuesday. They counted more than 40 homes affected.

“To see the strength that this storm had," says Sharon Courson, Wayne County EMA Deputy Director. "I mean in the houses that were destroyed you can see it but they were a lot of trees and things that other people aren’t seeing that you can tell the power of the storm the way it twisted the trees.”

EMA officials delivered food to those impacted and categorized the damage along with GEMA, but say their work is far from over.

“We’ve been trying to find out whether people have insurance if there’s some that aren’t insured we report it that way too and then the next step is probably getting people individual assistance,” Sharon says.

Those hardest hit by the tornado say they are working to pick up the pieces and take it day by day.

Seeing the devastation in Wayne County firsthand really sets in just how powerful this storm was while also highlighting how powerful the community is.

Russell Hilton’s home on Hyma Poppell Loop and his car shop in destroyed in Odum. Nearly all of the homes on the street took serious damage from the storm, but none more so than Russell’s.

Not only did the tornado blow out windows, rip up shingles and pull open their garage door, it also completely wiped out their car shop just behind the home.

All that’s left standing now are the five cars that were inside at the time. Despite the material losses on the property, Russell says it could have been much worse if they didn’t take shelter.

“We got in the middle of the living room flipped the couches over with the cushions up on top of us’ he said. "Heard the windows start blowing out. The bathroom window by the master bedroom blew out, and when it blew out it blew the door on top of the bed where my kid was just sleeping thirty seconds before that.”

Wayne County residents work to recover from EF-1 tornado

Miles down the road, in the Red Hill community, Eddie Surrency and his wife were just watching TV when it happened.

“My wife and I got up, we were having coffee. Turned on channel 11 like we usually do, catch the weather and news.”

But that’s when everything changed.

“Cutter was going out of his way to warn people.”

Warn them of the severe weather that was now right on top of them.

Both Eddie and Russell took cover.

“We got into the living room and flipped the couches over with the cushions on top of us," said Hilton.

“We got to our bathroom to get to a safe place," said Surrency.

And as the storm finally passed both men looked to see what it had left behind.

“It was all over in just a few minutes with a horrible roar then the whole world changed when I looked outside," said Surrency.

“Just couldn’t get over the devastation and the power of the wind," said Hilton.

What these two men saw outside their homes right after the storm may have been different.

What they saw shortly after that was nearly identical.

“They come from town and different churches," said Surrency.

“I probably had a hundred people over here yesterday working and helping," said Hilton.

People coming together to help their neighbors.

So, at the end of it all and even as they rebuild both Russell and Eddie seeing the blessing through the storm.

“My wife said God put His hand over the house and it went around," said Surrency.

“When they got him out of the house and he comes out the front door he said, ‘praise the Lord, we’re okay," said Hilton.

Wayne County residents work to recover from EF-1 tornado

Odum Church of God has been opened to serve as a command center for those handling the storm aftermath.

The church has been closed because of COVID-19 concerns, but once the storms hit they knew this called for special service to their community.

They opened their doors for EMA leaders the Red Cross and first reposnders.

Officials can come here to eat food which was donated by other local churches, get shade and rest before going back out to serve the community.

In addition to providing the space the church has also moved outside their building.

Helping those affected by the storm even storing some of their items in their building while homes are destroyed.

For the senior pastor this was easy, it’s what they are called to do.

“It’s really being the hands and feet of Jesus. We just want to try to help anyway that we can. We hate the times that are going on right now and then adding the storm on top of this yesterday. We just, we want to do everything we can do," said Pastor Justin Moriarty.

Pastor Moriarty did say one of the churches families lost everything in the storm, so they understand the scary times families are facing and will help however they can.

But the best part, this church is just one of the hundreds here helping. The whole community has pulled together to clean up and look forward.

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