Georgians are familiar with the gusty winds associated with frequent afternoon summertime thunderstorms. However, the strength of these wind gusts vary from storm to storm. Sometimes strong outflows called "microbursts" are generated that result in brief, but powerful gusts that are strong enough to knock down a few trees and limbs - or, if near an airport, toss around a few airplanes. This is apparently what occurred on July 15 around 745 pm EDT at the Griffin - Spalding County Airport.
A cluster of thunderstorms drifted over the area from the west. As the northernmost storm arrived at the airport, downrushing air hit the ground and spread out rapidly - mainly toward the east.
Damage from the storm was confined to the area on and near the Griffin-Spalding County airport. The most substantial damage was to several aircraft parked at the airport. Five planes received irreparable damage with at least three flipped onto their tops and another stood on its nose. As many as six other aircraft were damaged to a lesser degree due to stress caused by the wind on the ropes tying them down or by contact with other aircraft.
One airplane was lifted off the ground then carried approximately 70 feet over a fuel truck parked along the edge of the airport property landing upside-down on the county fairgrounds.
The terminal building at the airport also experienced significant damage to its roof. One airplane, a DC-3, awaiting restoration at the field was turned like a wind vane from facing southwest to facing west-northwest. Several trees in the southwest corner of the airport property were knocked down.
Additionally, the county fairgrounds immediately east of the airport suffered damage. A free-standing ticket booth was destroyed and a storage trailer was toppled along the western edge of the fairgrounds. Further east five small sets of aluminum bleachers were rolled by the winds and destroyed.
Continuing northeast of the airport/fairgrounds along Zebulon road four trees were observed to have blown completely down and scattered limbs were blown down into the downtown Griffin area. To the south of the airport two trees were toppled along Laurel street near Airport road with one falling on and crushing a metal storage building in the backyard of a residence.
By Matthew S. Sena with contribution from Terry Murphy