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Storms batter homes, trees in McDuffie

Cecelia Medley is thankful that God spared her life and that of her two-year-old son after a large tree fell through the roof of a double-wide mobile home in McDuffie County last Friday night.

"A friend of mine back home told me that an angel was looking over me and my son," said Mrs. Medley, a Moultrie, Ga. resident. "If I'd stayed on that sofa with my son another five seconds, we could have been seriously injured or killed."

Mrs. Medley, a waitress at a Waffle House in Moultrie, had been trying to get her son to go to sleep when a storm, packing strong winds and dangerous lightning, struck her in-law's home on Moose Club Road shortly before 10:30 p.m.

"I was sitting with James on the couch when I heard the sounds of trees cracking," said Mrs. Medley. "I knew we'd better run and get into the bathroom."

Once inside the bathroom, "I covered my son with my body to protect him as best I could," said Mrs. Medley.

The rest of her family, including her in-laws, Andy and Katie Young, managed to escape injury by running into a rear room of the home. Mrs. Young, who has cancer and is being cared for by hospice personnel, was taken to McDuffie Regional Medical Center in Thomson to be checked after emergency personnel arrived.

Mrs. Young's son, Charles Turner, said he was away visiting friends in Augusta at the time of the storm and couldn't believe his family escaped without injury after seeing the damage to the home.

"That's the couch I would sit on and watch television when I came home from work," said Mr. Turner.

The storm also caused a tree to fall on the roof of a mobile home, located at 1096 Boneville Road. Again, no one was injured.

The brick home of Sherri Harrison Smith, a physical education instructor at Thomson Middle School, also sustained damages. A tarp now covers the backside of the roof until repairs can be made. The damages there appeared to have come from fallen trees and branches from a nearby pine thicket.

Firefighters/first responders with the McDuffie County Fire/Rescue Services responded to both of the mobile home calls, according to Assistant Chief Stephen Sewell.

In the same storm, a Boneville man had his pickup truck blown into a ditch after it was lifted up by strong winds while driving along Augusta Highway near Moose Club Road.

"It was some of the strongest winds I've ever felt in my life," said Johnny Samuels. "The winds just picked my truck right up off the ground and I ended up in a ditch. Those winds must have been blowing at 80 miles an hour. It was a scary situation."

In several surrounding counties, winds were clocked at more than 100 mph as one or more tornadoes swept across the region.

McDuffie County Emergency Management Director Bruce Tanner said it still had not been confirmed as of Monday afternoon whether or not a tornado was responsible for the damages here or if it was just high winds.

"I think we were very lucky," said Chief Tanner. "It could have been much worse."

The storm also damaged other homes in those areas and either toppled or uprooted a number of trees and tore down power lines, causing electricity to be out at several homes for many hours.

Clean-up operations began Saturday morning and continued through Sunday.

Web posted on Thursday, April 16, 2009

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