The numbers quantifying the effects of the tornado and storms that struck Paulding Friday night and early Saturday keep climbing.
At a press conference put on by county leaders Monday afternoon, County Administrator Michael Jones reported that 163 homes sustained damage—14 received major damage, 57 moderate and the remaining minor damage. In all, 10 areas of the county were hit as Friday’s tornado entered the southwest part of the county and traveled east.
Despite the increasing reports of damage to homes, officials say they still have not received any reports of major injuries or deaths caused by the weekend’s severe weather.
Paulding Board of Commissioners Chairman David Austin said relief efforts for those affected by the tornado and storms are being coordinated by West Ridge Church. Those needing assistance can call the church at 678-742-4488.
Austin says the county has seen an outpouring of volunteers assisting those impacted and went on to say that those not helping with such efforts should steer clear of affected areas.
“Stay out of the main areas that have been impacted unless you’re there to do volunteer work,” he said. If you’re there to just look, if you’ll please not do that at this time—it just makes it much, much harder [to clean up the area].”
Austin says public safety officials have already had to deal with individuals aiming to profit after the damaging storms. A group came from Gwinnett County and claimed to be from a church aiming to assist homeowners, but once sheriff’s deputies found out they were instead looking for scrap metal to take, they were escorted away from the area.
Paulding County Sheriff Gary Gulledge said that while no arrests came from that incident or any others, deputies are prepared to put lawbreakers into custody. “If we catch anybody taking anything, there’s no doubt what our guys are going to do—put them in jail,” he said.
Gulledge and Austin warned homeowners about companies seeking to cheat them through offers of repairs or clean-up services.
“Check the people you’re dealing with, talk to your insurance company before you hire anybody. Don’t deal with any of these fly-by-night people,” Gulledge said. “If anyone comes up to you with a deal that’s too good to be true, it probably is.”
Airport Damage Estimated at $2 Million
Officials at the Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport continue to assess the damage caused by the storms. Airport Director Blake Swafford said the overall cost to cover damage to the terminal building and hangar, among other facilities, could cost somewhere between $1.5 million and $2 million.
Swafford said officials are still evaluating the airport’s insurance coverage to determine if it will cover all the damage or if taxpayers may foot part of the bill.
Though it will at least be weeks before normal operations resume, Swafford said part of the facility could be up and running by the week’s end. “Our goal is to have the runway open by the end of the week so those aircraft that were not damaged can relocate to another facility,” he said.
Swafford estimated the damage to aircraft at the facility at $5 million, though the figure could change as the clean up continues. He said that while the bulk of the planes likely have price tags ranging from $100,000 to $200,000, the most expensive aircraft there was probably worth $1.2 million to $1.4 million—it was totaled.
“We have 23 airplanes—by our current count, it looks like we had 18 totaled, a couple of the others are in question,” Swafford said. “Three or four might still be in good shape. Building-wise, the hangar behind me is going to be a total wreck, it’s going to have to be taken down and rebuilt, the terminal building has probably sustained maybe a couple hundred thousand in damage, most of that to the roof and water damage.”
Over at nearby Poole Elementary, students returned to classes Monday, though some were relocated to other classrooms due to damage sustained to one wing of the facility.
“I just left the school a while ago, and they said the first day was fantastic,” said Brian Otott, associate superintendent of Paulding County Schools. “To me being a former school principal at the elementary level, it was just like another Monday—kids excited being back and seeing their friends and teachers.”
Otott said district officials are still assessing the school’s damage and have not yet been able to determine a final cost of repairs, but added that repairs could be completed in a span of four to six weeks.