Straight line winds or tornado? Storm damage in Hillside community, Lafayette Parkway

Published 1:46 pm Friday, February 17, 2023

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An early morning storm caused significant damage to several areas of the Hillside community along Dallis St. and Forrest Ave. Friday morning.

As of Friday morning, officials were uncertain if the damage was caused by strong straight-line winds or a small tornado.

LaGrange Deputy Fire Chief Chad Dallas said there were no injuries reported as a result of the storm.

National Weather Service officials from the Peachtree City Weather Center are expected to evaluate the storm damage Friday afternoon.

While officials are debating if it was just straight winds or a tornado, residents on Forrest Ave. are certain it was a tornado. Multiple homes on the street suffered significant damage.

One home had a large tree uprooted, which landed on the house. Thankfully, the home was unoccupied at the time. Their neighbor, Freda Warlick, said the homeowners next door had only just begun moving items into the house and hadn’t fully moved in.

Warlick said she was awakened by the storm shaking her house when it knocked her out of bed, but she was not hurt. The tree that damaged Warlick’s neighbor’s home was uprooted from her front yard.

Two doors down, the home of Warlick’s granddaughter, who did not wish to be identified by name, suffered significant damage as well. A portion of the roof was damaged, gravel was thrown into windows, a tree was uprooted in their backyard and a storage building was overturned.

She was certain that it was a tornado, saying she heard what sounded like a train as the storm passed.

“I know it was a tornado. It lifted the sheets off my child’s bed upstairs,” she said. “It only lasted about 10 minutes in total.”

Nearby at Callaway Stadium, the winds flung around several portable bleachers, including throwing one set through the brick and metal fence that surrounds the stadium. The bleachers were blown all the way to Dallis St.

Across the road, the LaGrange College soccer field received some wind damage, mostly to the small press box in the area, according to Dean Hartman, Senior Director of Communications and Marketing at LaGrange College.

The Troup County Administration building, which houses the Troup County Health Department, DMV and Red Cross, suffered significant damage to the roof on the west side of the building. The static portion of their sign was also destroyed. The digital part of the sign appears to be undamaged.

Dallas said they have not begun to estimate the costs of the damage. He said city and county staff were currently working to clean up their properties and the LaGrange Utilities Department is working to secure power lines.

Across town, high-speed winds also damaged multiple traffic signals at the intersection of LaFayette Pkwy and Davis Rd. The car wash at the nearby Circle K was also damaged.

Officials from the National Weather Service in Peachtree City later confirmed that a low EF 1 tornado hit LaGrange.