SPC Stats

Path length: 23.05 miles

Width:  800 yards

Fatalities:  0

Injuries:  25

Rating:  EF3

County:  Bartow, Cherokee, Pickens

Tornado Path

SPC coordinates:  34.2703/ -84.8674   End:  34.4774 / -84.5513

Corrected coordinates Based on Analysis of Aerial and Satellite Imagery:

Start:  34.204836 / -84.997415    End: 34.479785 / -84.549141 

Note:  Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

Summary

This intense tornado tore apart neighborhoods across a 32-mile track in Georgia. Multiple two-story homes were wiped from their foundations, and 26 people were injured.

The twister began at 9:16 pm EDT, 3.8 miles SW of Kingston. The first ten miles of the path were largely uneventful. There were sporadic areas of uprooted trees, and a handful of structures received minor damage to their roofs. During this time, the width of the tornado slowly increased to over a half of a mile.

The intensity of the twister began to change more rapidly after it crossed Cedar Creek Road. A neighborhood on Dogwood Drive was hit. Numerous trees were snapped and uprooted. It is unclear what structural damage occurred here, but satellite imagery indicates that a few manufactured homes were destroyed and had to be torn down. Further northeast, just south of Interstate 75, a chicken house was flattened, and there was major tree damage.

The tornado quickly intensified to an EF3 after it crossed Interstate 75 and impacted a farm on Gaines Road NW. Four chicken houses were swept away, as were two small homes. A third residence lost its roof and shifted off its foundation. A large two-story house was unroofed and had some of the top-story walls blown away.

Aerial photo showing the damage along Gaines Road NW (NWS Peachtree City).

The twister then moved into the Crow Spring area. The New Covenant Church was swept off its foundation. Two concrete steps were all that remained. The neighboring Crowe Springs Baptist Church was destroyed when the roof was removed from the sanctuary.

The Crowe Springs Baptist Church via Georgia’s Weather Center.

The tornado reached peak intensity as it crossed Crowe Springs Road. Seven homes were swept away, and debris was wind-rowed from the empty foundations. One of the homes even had the flooring and carpet removed from its slab. Trees in the neighborhood were debarked. Over a dozen other homes here sustained varying degrees of damage. In an article by the Atlanta Examiner, a survivor from the subdivision commented, “They tell you a tornado sounds like a freight train. What they don’t tell is that it sounds like a freight train about two feet above your head.” In one of the destroyed homes was Christy Morris. She and her family were sheltering in a hallway when the tornado hit. Their home was completely destroyed, and the family was buried in the rubble. One of Christy’s daughters suffered a cracked spine, but miraculously none were killed. Neighbors were quickly able to pull the family from the wreckage.

An aerial photo showing the violent damage in the Crowe Springs area. Image via NWS Peachtree City.

In this area, the NWS rated the damage at 150 mph. Per the EF-Scale, a well-constructed home that is swept clean from its slab is considered EF5 damage (200+ mph). Poorly built homes are typically rated high-end EF3 or 165 mph. That is one mph below an EF4 and well above the 150 mph rating given to this tornado. No evidence suggests the residences swept away by the Pine Log twister could truly be called “well-constructed.” However, it is also clear many of these homes were not poorly built, and some were also two stories. Substantially debarked trees, windrowing, and the removal of carpeting and fixtures is supportive of a violent tornado. Considering the EF-scale parameters and the contextual evidence, it is unclear why this damage was not rated much higher than a 150 mph EF3.

Ground level image showing the extreme damage to one home. All of the contents of the house, including the flooring, was removed from the foundation and strewn downwind. Tree debarking can be seen in the background.

The tornado crossed Spring Place Road north of Crow Spring, where it destroyed two more homes, two chicken houses, and three barns. Further northeast, near the intersection of Bowen Road NE and Richards Road NE, several large, expensive homes sustained significant damage. One had the entire second story torn off and lost several first-story exterior walls.

In this area, Robin Brown, her husband, and two children sought shelter in a closet. Per the Cartersville Patch, “You could hear the board breaking. The pressure on our ears was terrible. We could feel it pulling on the house. It was like a vacuum pull.” The closet was the only portion of the home left untouched. The family was uninjured.

The large funnel then skirted past the Pine Log community, just northwest of Rydal. Extensive tree damage occurred. Three homes and two trailers were destroyed along Sparky Trail. Several others sustained damage from falling trees. A man was in one of the trailers when the tornado hit. The frame was wrapped around a tree, but he was able to pull himself from the rubble without serious injury. His pick-up truck was rolled over several times.

A view of devastating blowdown northeast of Pine Log from October 23, 2012, Google Earth imagery.

The tornado clipped the extreme northwestern corner of Cherokee County. In this one-mile-long section, hundreds, if not thousands of trees were snapped or uprooted. The tornado quickly crossed into southwestern Pickens County, where considerable tree damage occurred. It crossed Henderson Mountain Road, 1.65 miles NW of Talmadge. Three houses and seven trailers were destroyed along Henderson Mountain road and Childers Lane. Four chicken houses were leveled. Dozens of other structures were damaged in this area.

About 0.8 miles NW of Jerusalem, the tornado produced its last pocket of EF3 damage along Bryant Road. Five homes and four trailers were leveled, and at least one person was injured. Several dozen other structures were damaged or destroyed in the vicinity. Minor blowdown occurred for the next three miles until the tornado finally dissipated on the north side of Highway 53, 7 miles W of Jasper, at 9:52 PM EDT.

Volunteers removing trees that fell onto a house in Pickens County, via Know Pickens.

Roughly 400 structures were affected over a 36 minute and 32.03 mile track. This included 66 destroyed homes and businesses. 26 people were injured, and damage costs amounted to $23.35 million.

Recovery

In the weeks following the tornado, donation centers in Bartow County were literally overloaded with goods. Local churches and the Red Cross delivered thousands of meals for the displaced. Sifting through the aftermath was challenging, but many residents were determined to stay and rebuild despite economic hardships.

One of the most compelling recovery stories came from the Crowe Springs Baptist Church. The 143-year-old building’s sanctuary was destroyed, and other portions of the structure also suffered minor damage. The church body focused first on the needs of those in the area, aiding residents with tarps, clothes, and food. In return, the whole community came together to help rebuild the church. In an article by the Daily Tribune News, pastor Ronnie Cowert commented, “We thought we would get started and get to a certain spot and have to stop and try to raise money. We never stopped, and we never [ran] out of money… It was unbelievable how much love people showed toward us.”

Radar

Radar image as the tornado was approaching Pine Log.

Damage Photos from Bartow County

A pick-up truck and other debris was thrown into a swimming pool in Crow Spring (NWS Peachtree City).
A home that was swept away (Georgia’s Weather Center).
A closer image of the house in the above image. Notice the torn-up shrubs near the foundation, and tree debarking in the background (Georgia’s Weather Center).
This is all that remained of one house Crow Spring (Georgia’s Weather Center).
Only part of this house was left standing (Georgia’s Weather Center).
Destruction in the Crow Spring area (Georgia’s Weather Center).
Another photo of the damage in Crow Spring (Georgia’s Weather Center).

Damage Photos from Pickens County via Know Pickens

A mobile home that was destroyed.
A twisted trailer frame.
Debris strewn across a field from destroyed mobile homes.
Destroyed trailers.
A home on Childers Lane that sustained minor damage.
Debris strewn amongst a downed tree.

Photos via Facebook

Video

Discrepancies:

We gathered information for this event from the SPC/NCDC Databases, the April 2011 Storm Data Publication (SDP), and analysis of aerial and satellite imagery and found the following differences:

Path Length:

  • The SPC/NCDC/SDP list a path length of 23.05 miles.
  • Analysis of the damage indicates a path length of 32.03 miles.

    Path Width:

    • The SPC/NCDC/SDP list a maximum width of 880 yards (0.50 miles).
    • Analysis of the damage indicates a maximum width of 1,500 yards (0.85 miles).

      Injuries:

      • The SPC/NCDC/SDP list 25 injuries, all in Bartow County. Cherokee and Pickens County are listed with no injuries. However, the NCDC/SDP narratives both state that there was at least one injury in Pickens County. This would make for a total of 26 injuries.

        Sources:

        The Storm Prediction Center

        April 2011 Storm Data Publication

        NCDC Storms Event Database-Bartow County

        NCDC Storms Event Database-Cherokee County

        NCDC Storms Event Database-Pickens County

        NWS Peachtree City Event Summary

        Damage Assessment Toolkit

        Google Earth

        Georgia’s Weather Center

        Know Pickens

        Schulman, C., 2012. A Year Later, Residents Remember Twisters. Cartersville, GA Patch. https://patch.com/georgia/cartersville/one-year-later-residents-remember-tornadoes

        Swartz, K.E., 2011. Georgia storms: Historic church, homes destroyed in Bartow. Ajc. https://www.ajc.com/news/local/georgia-storms-historic-church-homes-destroyed-bartow/LZs9ukHyFKpL7l6ZtS8xzH/

        Nesmith, M 2016, ‘Preparation is crucial On five year anniversary of EF3 tornado officials preach readiness’, Daily Tribune News, The (Cartersville, GA), 27 Apr, (online NewsBank).

        Nesmith, M 2015, ‘Crowe Springs Baptist rebuilds after 2011 tornado celebrates 150th anniversary’, Daily Tribune News, The (Cartersville, GA), 4 Oct, (online NewsBank).

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