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Jackson storm displaces family, damages homes

May 26, 2011 at 12:26 a.m.
Updated June 2, 2011 at 1:02 a.m.

Jacob Browning tosses out shards of broken glass from his apartment after a strong thunderstorm with hail blew through the area. Nearly half of the 56 units had bedroom windows shattered by hail as the storm hit Ganado about 2 a.m.

A Cordele family received a harsh awakening Thursday morning as strong winds peeled off the roof to their mobile home.

"Oh, it was terrible ... all of a sudden, the trailer shook real bad and I saw the roof come down off the house," said Doris Fitch, 78.

Fitch and her son, Ronald Fitch, daughter-in-law Tonya Fitch and the couple's two children, Eric and Bethany, were displaced from the storm Thursday morning when winds ranging as high as 70 mph ripped through the area about 1 a.m.

"We were inside for a few minutes after the roof came down, and then we ran outside and went into the camper trailer on our property. My daughter called 911 and they came out and told us they had a room for us at the hotel," Fitch said.

Nearly everything inside the mobile home was ruined by the storm, Fitch said.

American Red Cross Crossroads Chapter paid for two rooms at a nearby Edna hotel for three days, and Fitch's insurance company will pay for an additional three days. But when the hotel stays have expired, Fitch said she doesn't know where her family will live.

"We'll be here until Wednesday morning, but I don't know where we'll go after that," Fitch said, mentioning she does not have any family members nearby. "I'm not worried about it really, not yet anyway."

The storm that displaced the Fitch family also sprouted a hail storm that ravaged areas of Ganado and Cordele.

Even though storm damage was significant in some areas with wind speeds as strong as 70 mph, The National Weather Service and Jackson County Emergency Management Coordinator Allan Friedrich confirmed the storm was not a tornado.

"We had reports of wind damage, but believe those are going to be straight line thunderstorm winds," said Josh Lichter, NWS meteorologists at the Houston-Galveston office.

Rainfall was "hit and miss" in the area, Lichter said. The Victoria Regional Airport reported .34 of an inch overnight.

The Fitch family was the only family displaced in the storm, but many area homes and properties were damaged.

Ganado residents living near Third Street experienced shattered windows and other damage from golf ball-sized hail that pelted their homes and vehicles about 1:30 a.m.

In Palacios, power lines were reported down and a transformer on fire about 3 a.m.

Hail and high winds also were reported by residents in Goliad County and in the Nursery and Thomaston areas in Victoria County, though the NWS has no official reports of either.

About half the residents at Lakeview Apartments in Ganado will need window replacements on their apartments and cars from the hail damage.

"We started hearing the storm come through about 1:30 a.m., that's when the electricity went out. I got up and looked around, then we started hearing a light tapping on the windows," Lakeview resident Rick Kocian, 43, said. "The tapping got heavier and I got everyone in the bathroom away from the windows. We could hear windows breaking from the bathroom."

In addition to Kocian's apartment damage, his two vehicles parked outside during the hail storm were dented and sustained substantial damages.

Lakeview's property manager George Mansell, who also lives onsite and experienced residential and car damage, said a restoration company has been contacted to board up windows and clean broken glass until they can be replaced.

"If the insurance company replaces these windows in the next 10 days, that will be very fast," Mansell said. "This is a big job. There's about 200 windows to replace."

Carpeting inside the damaged apartments will also be replaced.

Mansell said no one suffered injuries in the storm, and everyone seemed to be taking the events of the storm in stride.

"What can you do, you know?" he said.



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