ST. MARYS, Ga. – About 10 miles from the Kings Bay Navy base where a tornado tore apart an RV park Wednesday, significant damage was left in a St. Marys neighborhood after Tropical Storm Elsa passed through.
There were downed power lines and debris and trees in roadways.
St. Marys City Manager Robby Horton said the storm -- and the possible tornado -- passed through the Admiral’s Walk neighborhood before it hit the base.
He said thankfully no injuries were reported.
Horton said you can clearly see a path of destruction.
“We had one tree that was picked up and thrown about 20 feet, but the thing about it was when it went into the ground, it went down 4 feet and punctured one of our waterlines,” Horton said.
Those water lines have since been repaired and now crews are working to restore power.
According to the National Weather Service Jacksonville, the tornado in Camden County was an EF-2 that touched down along East St. Marys Street (north of the St. Marys River), then tore through Conyers and Norris Streets before damaging a single-wide home on Point Peter Road and ending at the Eagle Hammock RV Park on the base.
Camden County Emergency Management Director Chuck White said the National Weather Service Jacksonville delivered “spot on timely forecast information to us to allow our community to anticipate and prepare for it.”
White was out assessing the damage. He said the first thing Emergency Management does is mobilize everything in response to the tornado from the local level to the state and federal levels.
“There are over 250 responders from power, Public Works, fire, law enforcement, emergency management and a whole host of support, including the people on the ground doing the damage assessment for us,” said White.
His No. 1 priority remains life safety. White warns the community to be careful using chainsaws, ladders and other materials that could be dangerous while cleaning up.
“If you don’t live in the affected area of downtown St. Marys or in Admirals Walk or North Street Point, please avoid them,” said White.
⚠️ St. Marys Police in Camden County sending out an #emergencyalert ⚠️ Police asking community to avoid tornado damaged areas in downtown Saint Marys, the Point Peter Road/N. River Causeway area as crews work to clean debris. @wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/TJUDbxCSPC— Brittany Muller (@BrittMullerNews) July 8, 2021
City of St. Marys Mayor John Morrissey said city and county crews are working to clean up the roads.
“One of the most important things for homeowners to do is to make sure they get a hold of their insurance company immediately and the assessors get out there and they should be diligent and following up to do that,” said Morrissey.
Thursday morning, power lines could be seen wrapped around trees and a piece of roofing was plastered to a tree trunk.
Part of a roof ripped off a home and crashed into the window of a neighbor’s house on Ashley Street. The woman who lives there, Carmelita McBride, said her son was in the room moments before the glass shattered and he tackled her into the bathroom where they would be safe.
“You could hear the windows breaking, stuff just coming in the house -- branches, leaves, wind,” she said. “I remember just remember hearing the wind. The pressure was so intense.”
Many streets remained closed off Thursday morning as debris made them all but impassable.
Downed wires, street signs knocked to the ground and pieces of metal wrapped around trees were visible around the neighborhood.
Morrissey said crews with the emergency management agency were out with state agencies Thursday checking on citizens and finding out what they need so they can get them assistance to make their homes livable.
Horton also reminded residents to be careful as they begin the clean-up process.
“With ladders, chainsaws, that’s never a good combination in any form or fashion,” Horton said.
Camden County was under a tornado warning from about 5:45 p.m. until about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The tornado was at least the third confirmed Wednesday in the Southeast Georgia and Northeast Florida area. The NWS estimates an EF-0 tornado touched down Wednesday morning in Columbia County. There were also reports of damage in Jacksonville after a confirmed tornado early Wednesday evening.