A storm survey of damage that occurred Friday night 11/21/97 by NWS meteorologist Gary Davey
A steady state severe thunderstorm moved into northern Webster County Georgia at about 8:55 pm Friday November 21, 1997. The storm track started with tree and property damage in northwest Webster County near the town of Preston and continued in an east northeast direction. Two thunderstorms apparently merged over or near Draneville, Marion County where numerous large trees were blown down, a high school was damaged and a church destroyed. The storm continued across Marion County into Schley County, passing near Ellaville, where numerous well-built houses and other property was damaged by wind and falling trees. The storm then moved into Macon County where farm buildings were damaged and large pecan trees were blown over. The storm track ends east of Montezuma in Macon County.
Damage from this event was caused by extremely strong wind. Although doppler radar showed the storm was rotating, no evidence of a tornado was found. There is a suggestion of rotation presented by occurrences of large trees lying at angles to each other, and by a report of a funnel cloud being seen while being illuminated by continuous lightning near Draneville, Georgia.
There were no reports of serious injury received during or after this event.
Webster County:At approximately 8:55 PM EST a severe thunderstorm moved out of Stewart County into extreme northern Webster County. (The National Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Webster County at 8:32 PM.) Webster County Sheriff, Robbie Wells, reported numerous trees, large and small, blown down across roads. Some trees were broken off and others blown over in a forty acre plot located about ten miles northwest of Preston.
Marion County:At approximately 9:00 PM several properties two miles west Draneville, GA along State Highway 41 had numerous trees blown over. (The National Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Marion County at 8:32 PM and upgraded the warning to a Tornado Warning at 8:52 PM.) One residence had 45 trees over on the ground. Four or more of the trees in this area were large oak trees. Several silo's and farm out buildings were damaged at one of the three locations inspected.
At about 9 PM Tri-County High School on Highway 30 in Draneville received what was described as minor wind and water damage.
Shortly after 9 PM (exact time unknown) A church, in or just southeast of Draneville, on Highway 30 was destroyed by extremely strong wind. (The National Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Marion County at 8:32 PM and upgraded the warning to a Tornado Warning at 8:52 PM.) It looked as though the roof was lifted off and blown into nearby trees and a pecan orchard. The roof of the youth center building was also lifted/blown off but remained nearby. Several very large, very old, pine trees were blown over and smaller ones broken off about midway up. The Sheriff's office log shows the time damage was reported to them (around 10 pm), not the actual occurrence time.
A grocery store/gas station located about one hundred fifty feet from the church received minor damage to the gas pump awning/cover. Items (stock) within the store were knocked off shelves along and against the windward side of the building. The building is of metal construction, sometimes referred to as a "Butler" style building. No one was in the building at that time.
Nearby, about the same time, one hundred and sixteen mature pecan trees were blown over in an orchard just southeast of the church along Highway 30. This is the orchard where the roof of the church, broken into very small pieces, ended up. The owner of the orchard was not present at the time of the survey, However, two men who were working to harvest the pecans were questioned. They reported two thunderstorms seemed to come together near Draneville. This was determined by lightning patterns. The person who actually saw the event was not available for interview, but his son was one of the men working at harvesting the pecans. The young man reported that his father had observed what seemed to be a funnel cloud visible due to nearly continuous lightning. This was the only report of a funnel cloud received during this event. No direct evidence of a tornado was found.
Schley County:At approximately 9:20 PM damage to many homes along with other property damage was caused by high wind and falling trees in and around Ellaville, GA. (The National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning for Schley County at 9:01 PM.) Most of the downed trees seemed to be pine but there was evidence that oak trees were blown over too. This site was surveyed three and one half days after the event and major cleanup was well under way. A deputy Sheriff's home was in this area and was extensively damaged by wind and blown over trees. In his words, "I had a tree limb in every room of my house." He placed the time at about 9:20 PM. The neighbors agreed to within a few minutes. Damage in this area was centered around the intersection of Westwood and Briarwood Streets and along another road, located in the same general area, called Edgewood. All these streets are on the west or southwest edge of the city of Ellaville. While there was extensive wind damage, there was no evidence of a tornado.
Macon County: About 9:30 to 9:40 PM (three to thirteen minutes after the National Weather Service issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning for Macon County), seven miles east northeast of Ellaville along Highway 26, a mobile home was lifted from and then returned to its foundation. Cinder block footings under the home were crushed. Four large pecan trees were blown over nearby. Part of one pecan tree fell onto the mobile home. This mobile home had tie downs tightly in place. The tie downs showed six inches of stretch after the storm passed. Loud roaring "freight train" sounds were reported, but there was no direct evidence of a tornado. Howver, one very large oak tree was lying blown down at an angle of about ninety degrees to the blown over pecan trees. The distance between the pecan trees to the oak trees was about two hundred feet separated by Highway 26.
Twenty-five to thirty mature pecan trees were blown over on the property of M. J. McLendon, Highway 26, Macon County. This is about seven and one half miles east-northeast of Ellaville, GA on Highway 26. Trees fell onto power lines to the house. An electric clock stopped stopped at 9:20 PM, but power may have been lost prior to the occurrence of damage on the property.
At about 9:40 PM wind damage occurred to an outbuilding owned by Mr. Harley Yoder. Mr Yoder's farm is about one and one half miles east of Montezuma on Highway 26.
At about 9:40 PM The roof of a twelve foot wide feed building was blown off a farm maintenance building owned by Mr. Swartzentruder. This property is located two and one half miles east of Montezuma on Highway 26. The building contents were extensively damaged by rain and wind. Ground track evidence of the storm ends with this last report two and one half miles east of Montezuma, Georgia.