Storm tears through Wrens
By Ben Nelms
The National Weather Service claims there was no tornado moving through Glascock and Jefferson counties Sunday afternoon. Just try telling that to Wrens Western Motel Manager Nutan Pateo, who witnessed a small twister move around her motel and rip the building's heavy canopy off its foundation. Though minor to moderate damage was done in both counties, no serious injuries were reported in the wake of the fast moving storm.
Still animated from what she witnessed Sunday, Pateo offered a detailed description of the event. There had been no rain or strong wind, just an overcast but bright afternoon, she said. Then things quickly changed. Pateo said she was caught off guard when she first spotted the small twister behind the motel. It damaged a large tree and moved in a northeasterly direction around the corner on the north side of the building and then changed directions, moving southwest across the front parking lot. She estimated the twister on the ground at approximately 25-feet in diameter. The tornado continued its path across the parking lot, ripping the motel's heavy canopy from its foundation and flipping it upside down onto the parking lot. The twister snapped several trees on the property before knocking out a plate glass window at the Huddle House restaurant next door. Pateo and two of the motel's guests witnessed the spectacle.
"I first saw the funnel behind the building, then it came around to the front. It was circling and spinning and making a loud, roaring noise," Pateo explained, using her hands to mimic the motion of the winds. "The whole building was shaking. I thought I was gone. There was so much noise. I jumped on the floor and just laid there. I was praying, 'God please save me.'"
The storm began in Warren County and moved into Glascock, said Glascock Emergency Management (EMA) Director Mike Lyons. The storm intensified in southeast Glascock and northwest Jefferson, causing some roof damage to the Thiele Kaolin plant, blowing the roof off a mobile storage building in Glascock, knocking the porch off another dwelling and blow ing it onto the roof and uprooting or knocking over a minimum of 15 oak, pecan and pine trees in its path, said Lyons.
Once it left Glascock, the storm moved into northwest Jefferson. Amid what only moments earlier had been slightly overcast and generally bright skies over Wrens came a loud crack of thunder followed quickly by electricity failing around portions of the city. Then everything changed. The sky darkened quickly, accompanied by fierce winds, driving rain and hail. And as quickly as it arrived, it was gone.
Wrens Police Chief David Hannah reported that in the path of the fast moving storm limbs broke, a minimum of 15 trees fell on Oak, Ellis and Center Streets and along U.S. Highway 1 on the north side of town at First National Bank and Western Motel. The roof blew off a trailer on SR 17, a portion of the roof of Lloyd's Transmission blew onto cars in front of the store, a residence on Oak Street was damaged and a front plate glass window on the Huddle House on U.S. 1 was blown out along with the damage done at the Western Motel.
Almost simultaneously a few miles north of Wrens on U.S. 1, a passenger car flipped upside down near Parrish Place Road. Though suffering only scrapes in the accident, the two passengers said they were driving along when a sudden high wind and driving rain caused the vehicle to over turn.
Supplying power to rural Jefferson and Glascock, Jefferson Energy announced that power lines downed by falling trees affected approximately 880 customers. Line crews had power restored to nearly all customers by 6 p.m. and anticipated complete restoration by 9 p.m. The number of Georgia Power customers affected by power outages was unknown, though much of the city was temporarily without electricity.
So whether an "official" tornado or not, the fast moving storm hit quickly and departed within minutes, leaving its signature of destruction on portions of Glascock and north Jefferson.
Students eat poisoned cookie
• Tests have not revealed what made students sick, as of Tuesday afternoon
By Parish Howard
and Faye Ellison
Editor and staff writer
As of Tuesday afternoon, authorities were still stumped as to just what it was about a chocolate chip cookie that made several Glascock County High School students so sick they had to be taken to McDuffie County Regional Medical Center.
"At this point we just don't know what was in that cookie," Glascock County Sheriff Bryan Bopp said Friday afternoon while on his way to an Atlanta crime lab to have pieces of the cookie tested. "We're still trying to find out exactly what happened."
Tuesday afternoon Glascock County School Superintendent Jim Holton said that as of 3 p.m. the Georgia Bureau of Investigation still could not be certain of what was in the cookie. As of noon, Holton said the Center for Disease Control, who was testing urine and blood samples taken from the eight effected students, also had nothing to report.
The trouble began Friday morning.
According to Principal Sally Garrett a student shared a number of cookies with at least four teachers and a number of other students during break, around 9:30-10 a.m. Several left over cookies were taken to a class by another student who shared them with classmates.
At least two students have said they suspected something was wrong with the cookie shortly after swallowing it.
Senior Coty Faglier said that the cookie "didn't taste right."
"Right away it started burning the back of my tongue and throat," Senior Colt Turner said.
That's when he threw it down. Turner said it was that piece that law enforcement agents later took to test.
At that point eight students, ranging in age from 14-17, had eaten pieces of the cookie.
About 30 minutes later, several girls who had eaten of the leftover cookies began to complain of extreme nausea.
"They were heaving, their throats were burning and they were complaining of stomach cramps," Principal Garrett said. "That's when we called the ambulance and law enforcement."
Only two students were taken by ambulance to the hospital. The other six were transported by their parents as a precautionary measure, the sheriff said.
Six of the students were treated and released, the two freshman girls with the most severe reactions were kept overnight for observation.
Faglier and Turner made it back from the hospital in time to play in Friday night's home football game.
Principal Garrett said that all eight students who had felt the ill effects of having eaten the cookie were back at school as of Tuesday.
GBI spokesman John Bankhead said that the investigation was still ongoing and that no one had been taken into custody.
"We still don't know what happened," Principal Garrett said late Friday afternoon. "I know the child who brought these cookies and he is a good child who has never been a discipline problem. It will probably be a couple of days before we know anything else."
Holton said that this was not the first time this particular student had brought cookies to school before to share.
Bankhead said that some chemicals had been ruled out, however since so many students had eaten of the contaminated cookie very little was left to be tested.
Commission hopes to reach conclusion on landfill's future
• Meeting will be held Oct. 12 to discuss various options for the facility
By Ben Nelms
After months and years of indecision about the fate of the Jefferson County landfill, commissioners are set to meet Oct. 12 to discuss the ramifications of the various options relating to the facility in the hope of finally reaching a conclusion about what direction to take.
"In the last year we've been running the landfill operation, paying engineering costs and we've had lots of meetings. We've been given information but no decision has been made," county administrator Paul Bryan said at the October work session Monday. "We've been given additional reports and other information but minimal discussion has been forthcoming. The landfill has been discussed at meetings but we have not had a meeting where we've sat down and talked about the entire topic."
Bryan's words echoed his remarks at the September work session and again at the September regular session, where he reminded commissioners that the current cell at the landfill was filling more rapidly than anticipated. He said in early September that a new cell would have to be constructed in the next 15 months if the facility were to remain open while closing it would require, due to slopping requirements, that it be closed in June. Those comments were preceded by a June public meeting where 18 potential options for the facility earlier in the year were narrowed to four. Three of the options involved closing the landfill with the fourth option calling for it to remain open.
At the Oct. 4 work session, commissioners again agreed that a decision must be reached. Commissioner Isaiah Thomas said the board needed something like a skeletal outline of approaches including a thorough accounting of the assets and liabilities involved in the issue. Bryan responded, saying that the board had scrutinized the options relating to aspects of the different options presented earlier in 2004, but agreed that all the variables relating to expenditures and revenue possibilities had not been discussed.
Commissioner Tommy New added that he believed there are only two basic approaches feasible, though he favored contracting to have trash picked up from green boxes and hauled out of the county and foregoing the construction of a transfer station, a move, he said, that should save taxpayers money.
"I don't think we've got but two ways to go," New said. "We can keep it open or we can close it and haul trash out of the county. I want to see it hauled out and I want to see the ramifications. We need to see what kind of contract we'd be looking at and whether we need to build a transfer station. We have to know what direction we're going to shut it down. I'm just tired of putting this thing off."
After more discussion Bryan requested again that commissioners dedicate a meeting to conducting a thorough and detailed discussion designed to come to a definitive decision on the landfill issue. The imminent need to do so, he said, rested on the board's past habit of "making a decision and then going back and changing it."
The board agreed to meet to discuss the landfill at a called meeting Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 9 a.m. Any potential decision reached may or may not be surfaced at the regular session at 7 p.m. the same day.
The topic of the financial status and potential future of the landfill has been discussed at countless meetings over a period of five years. An aspect of the overall issue given only rudimentary consideration, if any, is the revenue side of the landfill equation. County auditors have asked commissioners since 2000 to consider alternatives involving some type of a user based system to offset the continuing and increasing deficits since the facility opened in January 1999.
Only one time since the facility opened did the commission begin to take any action that would in any way alter the status of the landfill. In June 2001, little more than two years after it opened, commissioners voted unanimously to begin the Request For Proposal process to sell the landfill. Having reversed their decision shortly thereafter, no other substantive action potentially affecting the state of the facility has occurred.