Severe storm damages several businesses in Garden City

Severe storm damages several businesses in Garden City
Published: May. 4, 2017 at 10:21 PM EDT|Updated: May. 5, 2017 at 4:48 AM EDT
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GARDEN CITY, GA (WTOC) - Severe weather damaged several businesses along Highway 80 in Garden City on Thursday evening.

Many people living and working along Highway 80 were simply caught off guard and stunned by the damage and debris left behind by that powerful storm.

According to Chatham County officials, it is estimated that 14 structures in Chatham County were damaged by the storm. Five minor injuries were reported with one person going to the hospital.

WTOC's Tesia Reed was first on the scene to take the picture below of Advance Auto Parts on Highway 80 in Garden City.

The 80 Quick Stop was one of the businesses damaged, with some roofing caved in on the backside and damage to several trucks in its parking lot. Also in that parking lot, an SUV's passengers had just gone inside the building when the wind tossed a shed onto the side of their vehicle.

Bystanders and emergency officials alike assessed the damage, some not able to take their eyes off the devastated store fronts and piles of debris all around them.

"It's unbelievable, I'm speechless. I've lived over here for several years, and I've never seen anything like this before," said Salena Mitchell Rawls, who lives down the road.

"I was driving right over here, that red brick building, right here. And when I got up to the building, all of the sudden you heard the boom, you saw the lightning, it was blue sparks like it hit something. And then all of a sudden it was on us, there was nothing else to think about," said Rep. Carl Gilliard.

Rep. Gilliard says he plans on working closely with the mayor and council of Garden City, and will also contact the governor's office once the damage assessment is completed.

One man said he was on his way home from work when the rain came. He had to actually lay on the ground as the storm passed overhead.

"Went smack over my house, and all I could do is lay down between my house and my neighbor's house. I saw it and it sounded like a roaring lion, like a freight train, it was just devastating. The first thing I thought: just lay down. I laid between my house and my sister house and I tell you it just I thank God for being alive," said James Styron.

According to Chatham County officials, there was a structure fire on Second Avenue and a HAZMAT spill believed to be diesel fuel and oil on Telfair Road.

Georgia Ports Authority Senior Director of Corporate Communications Robert Morris confirmed to WTOC that a couple containers were flipped over at the ports.

One person had to be transported to the hospital with a head injury. WTOC later confirmed that the injured person was John Wilson.

Wilson posted the image below to Facebook showing his injuries.

Wilson was in his truck in Garden City when the storm came through. He says the wind blew it over.

John was taken to Memorial and was later discharged Thursday afternoon.

Several power crews were on scene assessing downed lines and working to restore power as soon as possible.

WTOC is told it could be several hours before the power is back on in the area. Please click here to check the online outage maps for your area.

Guys from Pike Electric are contracted by Georgia Power. They are having to replace several of the power lines around here.

Police tell WTOC they will have patrols out all night because they have already had issues with looters targeting damaged businesses and that's even more of a concern while the power is out.

Some of these businesses are hoping to reopen Friday.

WTOC spoke to an employee who says he saw flying debris heading towards them and that's when they ran for shelter inside.

"Only thing I could think was get all the employees and customers inside. You could see a bunch of debris flying everywhere. Thankfully it didn't hit us, it turned out that way," said Shaun Stapleton, a witness.

The Red Cross has sent their disaster team out to help. It's obviously going to be several days before things are back to normal.

There were no severe weather watches or warnings issued in connection with this particular storm in Chatham County by the National Weather Service-Charleston, therefore, the emergency warning sirens did not activate, according to county officials.

The National Weather Service will be on site Friday to evaluate the damage and determine the strength of the storm.

Several roads are blocked off in the area due to storm damage and the increased law enforcement presence as officials clean up debris in the area.

Some Garden City businesses will be closed for a long time as they work to get things back to normal.

An official with the Savannah-Chatham Public School System told WTOC that the damage has no impact on schools in the area and Friday's schedule will proceed as normal.

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