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Published: Friday, 2/20/2009

Savage storms kill man, injure 16 in Georgia, Alabama

ASSOCIATED PRESS

ATLANTA - One person was killed and at least 16 were injured when fierce thunderstorms swept Georgia and Alabama, bringing tornadoes, hail, and lightning and downing trees and power lines, authorities said.

At least three tornadoes touched down in central Georgia when the storms swept through overnight, according to National Weather Service teams who rolled out after daylight to assess the damage. The storms gutted homes and destroyed a nightclub and damaged schools.

"It looks like a B-52 bomber went over," Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills said.

In Sparta, Johnny Frank Baker was killed when the storm destroyed his home, county Coroner Alexander Ingram said.

Most of the Hickory Grove Missionary Baptist Church across the street from Mr. Baker's home was leveled. Nearby graves were disrupted by toppled trees.

Kent McMullen, a meteorologist with the weather service in Peachtree City, said one confirmed tornado cut a 7-mile swath through Jasper County with winds of up to 100 mph. At least 10 people were injured and as many as 100 structures were damaged in Jasper County, emergency managers said.

Two other twisters touched down in Taylor County and at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Mr. McMullen said.

In Alabama, an apparent tornado uprooted trees in Geneva near the Florida line. No injuries were reported.

The storms also damaged at least two schools in Fayette County south of Atlanta.

Across Georgia, roughly 13,400 homes and businesses lost power during the height of the storm. Much of it was restored by yesterday morning.

The storms might just be a preview of the spring tornado season. A record outbreak of 21 tornadoes struck the state on March 1, 2007, wrecking a hospital in Americus and killing nine people. A tornado struck downtown Atlanta on March 14, causing millions of dollars in damage.

In parts of Ohio yesterday, predawn snow flurries created icy highways and led to dozens of accidents and school delays.

Some main routes in the Cincinnati area were closed at times during the morning's rush hour so salt trucks and tow trucks could clear them.

High winds combined with light snow and cold temperatures to make driving hazardous around Dayton, where the National Weather Service warned of periods of limited visibility.

Snow and ice made the commute difficult in northeast Ohio. A Highway Patrol dispatcher described conditions as "horrible."



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