Tornadoes leave path of farm destruction
By: Georgia Farm Bureau
2/8/2017 2:18:31 PM
The tornadoes that ravaged South Georgia on Jan. 22, killing 16 people and leaving many others picking up the pieces of their homes, also left a trail of significant damage to farms in 16 South Georgia counties.
According to representatives from major irrigation system manufacturers, more than 300 irrigation pivots were damaged or destroyed in a stretch from Baker and Calhoun counties in the southwest corner of the state to Wilcox County just east of I-75. Representatives from Valley Irrigation, Reinke Irrigation and Zimmatic Irrigation indicated repairs or replacements of the damaged pivots could be completed by early April.
In Cook County, in addition to the eight fatalities attributed to the storm, 21 greenhouses operated by Valdosta Plant Company were damaged or destroyed.
Tens of thousands of acres of forestland were affected, resulting in damaged timber valued at more than $41 million. Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order to temporarily lift restrictions on logging trucks using state maintained roadways to facilitate removal of storm-damaged timber.
Poultry houses were destroyed in multiple counties, including six at the Carpenter Farm in Worth County, where an estimated 150,000 birds were housed at the time of the storm.
Pecan orchards in at least eight counties sustained downed trees.
In Turner County, Ryan Ireland's farm just north of Ashburn took a direct hit, destroying a shed covering his large equipment, some of which was damaged, destroying a barn built by his family in the 1930s and an adjacent 3,500-bushel grain bin. It also took down his two irrigation pivots, destroyed fences and blew out windows on tractors. The twister destroyed his family's home.
"It's heart-breaking," said Ireland, 24. "I'm a beginning farmer trying to get started. I didn't have much and now it feels like I'm having to start over."
Farther northeast in Turner County, beekeeper Alan Odom was in his shop at Odom Apiaries working just minutes before the tornado reached his farm. Odom said he left his shop and drove to his home a quarter-mile away. He saw the tornado on the ground approaching the house and he went inside, where he and his wife Mary Jac hid in a closet while the twister pelted the house with debris and pebbles from an adjacent field, blowing out windows, overturning a propane tank outside and damaging the roof.
"There was a point in there where I thought I was going to die," Odom said. "It'll take us some time to recover from this. We're just doing what we can to keep operating."
The storm left extensive damage to his shop, ripping off portions of the roof and exposing his equipment to rain, and ravaging more than 300 honey boxes. His beehives, placed on surrounding farms, escaped damage from the storm.
Farmer Dan King, who farms land in multiple counties, had eight downed pivots, four tractors that sustained extensive damage and a block house at the edge of one of his fields completely destroyed.
In Wilcox County, GFB 8th District Director Don Wood lost six pivots, while Wilcox County Farm Bureau member Ricky Whittle sustained severe damage, losing five grain bins, seven pivots two houses and some of his livestock.
In light of what occurred in other counties, Wilcox County Sheriff Robert Rodgers said the county was fortunate.
"We had eight houses destroyed and 25 others damaged," Rodgers said, "but we were really blessed we did not have the first reported injury. There is some serious destruction, but we were extremely fortunate to not have any deaths in the county."
To view photos of some of the storm damage visit http://bit.ly/agtornadodamage.
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