ALBANY – Chuck Stafford was watching the Atlanta Falcons rout the Green Bay Packers for the NFC title when bad weather suddenly began to pound his mobile home in southern Georgia.
Stafford, 74, had just gone to the bathroom during Sunday’s football game when the wind started whipping the mobile home park in Albany where he has lived for 31 years. His home started shaking violently.
The gusts blew the windows out of Stafford’s trailer, spraying shattered glass everywhere. But he was lucky.
“I grabbed hold of my washer and dryer, got my legs spread apart and hunched over,” Stafford said. “I guess I picked a good time to go to the bathroom.”
Stafford was among residents in Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina who were trying to pick up the pieces left behind by a powerful storm system that tore across the Deep South over the weekend, killing 19 people, including 15 in south Georgia. Rescuers were going through stricken areas Monday, searching for possible survivors.
In South Carolina, the National Weather Service has confirmed that two tornadoes struck over the weekend, injuring one woman who was trapped in a mobile home that was damaged near Blackville. The weather service says a tornado touched down about 3:45 p.m. Saturday in Barnwell County and moved into Bamberg County. The other occurred in Orangeburg County a few minutes later.
Jenny Bullard, 19, said she and her parents, Jeff and Carla, are glad to have escaped without major injury after an apparent tornado battered their home in Cook County, causing walls to collapse. They are a farming family dating back generations, living not far from where the mobile homes were destroyed.
The middle section of their brick house was ripped off the slab. A piano was blown out of the house.
She recalled waking up to the sound of hail and then heard her father, calling her name.
“There was a bunch of stuff on top of him and I just started throwing everything I could until I got to him,” she said. Then she and her parents fled.
The young woman went back through the debris for family photos and other belongings. Bricks lay scattered about, alongside their possessions and furniture. Across the street, where the Bullards kept farm equipment in sheds, one shed was blown apart. Two grain silos were blown over.
“It’s a horrible tragedy. But all this stuff can be replaced,” she said. “We can’t replace each other. We’re extremely lucky. My dad is lucky to be alive.”