Chainsaws buzzing in tornado zone as survivors talk about their frightening experiences


WEST POINT, Ga. – When Sherry Bennett heard hailstones pounding against her roof and walls early Sunday morning, she worried it would put dents in cars in her neighborhood.

Turned out the hail was the least of her worries.

An EF-3 tornado with winds up to 165 mph picked up her Jeep Cherokee and slammed into the side of her house, caving in the vehicle's roof and shattering the windows. The twister also ripped the roof off her house, blew away her garage, and sent two neighboring homes skyward.

“I realized immediately it was a tornado,” Bennett said. “Glass was flying everywhere. It was scary, really scary, but I came out of it without even a scratch. It's amazing.”

Bennett’s neighborhood was buzzing with chainsaws on Tuesday as Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief crews began what’s expected to be a long process of helping with clean up.

Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief has responded with chaplains, chainsaw units and a mobile kitchen to feed volunteers, plus showers and laundry units so they can clean up after long days of work.

Tornadoes damaged or destroyed about 100 homes and other structures in Georgia over the weekend.

Bethel Baptist Church in West Point was destroyed, and Northside Baptist Church in Milledgeville was damaged.

Andy Buchanan, mission strategist in the Troup County Baptist Association, said the neighborhood around Bethel Baptist Church is unrecognizable. Downed trees are obscuring entire homes.

The Georgia Baptist volunteers were cutting trees off roofs and putting tarps over gaping holes gouged out by limbs.

Bethel Pastor Chris Hendricks said his congregation plans to meet for worship Sunday beneath a large tent they plan to erect on the church parking lot.

Hendricks said he expects his church to rebound well.

“I believe God is using this as a door of opportunity to help the church grow bigger and stronger than ever before,” he said.

People from Bennett’s church, Roper Heights Baptist Church, helped her on Tuesday to salvage some of her furniture from the ruins of her home.

Bennett said the volunteers noticed a plaque on a bookcase that was untouched by the tornado. It declared: “Trust in the Lord. Do not be afraid.”

“Nothing on that bookcase was blown off or touched,” she said.

Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief Chaplain Mark Kitchens, a member of Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon, said what’s miraculous is that no one in the neighborhood was killed.

“Because look,” he said, “the destruction is incredible.”

Bennett has an explanation.

“It was just God,” she said. “I don’t think I would be here if not.”


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