A tornado spawned by the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay destroyed one mobile home and damaged several residences at about 4:30 Tuesday afternoon in the Cedar Drive area of Commerce. (See slide show of photos here)
Early reports indicated two people were slightly hurt by the twister, which approached from the southwest over Washington Street, then dipped to the ground for mere seconds before receding back into the clouds.
A mobile home on Cedar Drive owned by Renae Bonds was hardest hit. The wind snatched it off its foundation, blew it nearly 100 feet and smashed it to the ground near a Georgia Power right of way. Fortunately, Bonds was not home at the time. A tall utility pole was blown over the major Georgia Power transmission line through the area, and electric service was out.
The smell of natural gas was evident around the Bonds' house. Water from a severed service line poured onto the ground.
"We saw it coming from Hill Street," said Nathan Anderson. "We saw it form and go down."
The tornado also damaged the front deck and roof of the residence of Willie Pearl Daniel, 218 Ridgeway Street.
"The bad thing is I don't have any homeowners' insurance," she said. "I couldn't afford it no more."
Her son, Lamar Daniels, saw it coming; the family took refuge in an inner room.
"We saw it from the bank," said Sandra Haggard of Regions Bank. "We saw it back over Washington Street. The clouds came down and it started swirling and we said 'there's a tornado on the ground.'"
Haggard said "green lightning" accompanied the twister for about five seconds as it was on the ground.
"I said, 'Oh God, that's the recreation department,'" she recalled, to which Doug Norwood, who was at the bank replied, "No, it's going to hit my momma's house." Mrs. Daniel is his mother.
Several other residences in the immediate area suffered lesser damage. A tree fell on a mobile home, whose elderly occupant was shaken up but not injured. Downed tree limbs or other damage were reported on Cole Court and Ashworth Mobile Home Park, with some minor structural damage. Trees were down in yards along Forest and Brookwood avenues, and a house on Sunnycrest Lane had roof damage. Trees blew over at Veterans Memorial Park on Carson Street.
Officials closed Old U.S. 441 (Homer Road) at 5:10 to keep onlookers out and closed off access from other roads.
Commerce police, fire and rescue workers were quickly on the scene. Jackson County EMS rolled in, and the county road department was summoned, along with crews from the county correctional institute. The American Red Cross was en route to the area by 5:10.