A tornado spawned by the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay destroyed one mobile home and damaged a number of residences at about 4:30 Tuesday afternoon in the Cedar Drive area of Commerce.
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.
Officials closed Old U.S. 441 (Homer Road) at 5:10 to keep onlookers out.
Commerce police, fire and rescue workers were quickly on the scene. Jackson County EMS rolled in, and the county road department was summoned. The American Red Cross was en route to the area and a number of nearby police and fire departments also responded to help with traffic control, tree cutting and searching for injured people. The First Baptist Church made its facilities available for those displaced by the storm.
BJC Medical Center was not damaged in the storm, although it was very close to where the tornado touched down. The hospital did lose power and was operating off backpower for some time.
The tornado was first spotted near Arcade and was followed by deputies from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office. At about 4:15 p.m., it touched down at a home off Brockton Loop Road damaging the roof and a garage door. It then went back into the air and headed Northeast touching down in Commerce a few minutes later.