Residents in Liberty County were concerned as severe weather approached the area this past Saturday After all, it was around this same time last year that the County was struck by an EF-1 tornado that ripped through Sunbury and sections of Midway in 2020.
And in March of 2019 Liberty County was hit with another EF-1 tornado that tore through sections of U.S. Highway 17 and Old Darien Road mangling tress and toppling power lines.
Nerves were frayed as the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for the County until 6 p.m. April 24. But unlike the past two years, Liberty County was spared from the brunt of the storm, this time.
According to Liberty County Emergency Management Agency Director Robert Dodd the calls he received reported minor damages in the area. He said three callers reported three different homes that were hit by lightning. He got one call about a shed being hit by lightning, one report of a tree on a power line and one of a tree that fell on a car. Despite the rain, no flooding was reported in the County. More importantly no injuries were reported either.
The same can’t be said for the folks who live in nearby Coffee County. For the folks at Bear Creek Mobile Home Park and Bay Meadows subdivision, just miles outside of Douglas it was a harrowing experience.
Residents of Bear Creek Mobile Home park woke up to trees on homes and limbs scattered throughout the park causing some people to flee their damaged homes after the storm passed through around 9:30 pm.
Kenneth Hersey was rifling through the debris, gathering treasured memories from the trailer he shared with his wife and granddaughter. He paused a moment looking at the large hole the tore his mobile home in half. He said he was looking out his front door as the rain came down light at first and then grew heavy. The winds picked up and suddenly a tree came crashing through the kitchen area of his home. “It just collapsed everything inside the kitchen,” he said. Hersey and his family managed to escape from the damage unharmed but he remained at a loss for words to describe the storm’s aftermath.
Mack Wooten, who resides in another mobile home, said he was asleep when the tornado passed through and sent a tree crashing into the roof his bedroom.
“I was dead asleep when the tornado passed,” Wooten said. “I woke up when I felt water hit my face, I watched through the hole in my bedroom as the vortex spun lit up by lightning. I just know I was in a tornado and I rolled out of bed, ran into the bathroom, got on my knees and began praying. I really thought this was it.”
Several miles away in the Bay Meadows subdivision, Renea Ritchie was lying in bed and talking to her husband on the phone when the rain and wind became stronger. Ritchie said, in an instant, her call was disconnected, her bedroom window shattered and she felt her home lean. As the storm passed over her home it stripped away the roof shingles and bricks from the front of the house.
Ritchie ran into a closet to seek shelter and when she went outside to survey the damage she discovered a large storage shed had been destroyed and her 40 foot RV camper had been flung from her driveway. She said her RV was shattered to pieces and scatted across her neighbor’s backyard.
“This is devastating, just devastating,” she said.
Coffee County Emergency Management Agency Director, Steven Carver, said the confirmed tornado damaged an estimated 60 or more homes with either minor to substantial structural damage.
According to the National Weather Service Meteorologist in Charge, Scott Cordero, who was on the ground surveying damage to two areas of Coffee County, the areas were struck by an EF-2 Tornado packing winds of 111 mph or higher.