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Tornado causes damage on Fort Stewart
Diamond Elementary closed Thursday; most power restored

POSTED: February 3, 2016 5:38 p.m.Tornado touches down on Fort Stewartwww.wondergrund.comView LargerView More » 1 2{"uid":2,"hostPeerName":"","initialGeometry":"{\"windowCoords_t\":40,\"windowCoords_r\":1011,\"windowCoords_b\":739,\"windowCoords_l\":113,\"frameCoords_t\":889,\"frameCoords_r\":396,\"frameCoords_b\":1139,\"frameCoords_l\":96,\"styleZIndex\":\"auto\",\"allowedExpansion_t\":0,\"allowedExpansion_r\":9,\"allowedExpansion_b\":0,\"allowedExpansion_l\":0,\"xInView\":1,\"yInView\":0.408}","permissions":"{\"expandByOverlay\":false,\"expandByPush\":false,\"readCookie\":false,\"writeCookie\":false}","metadata":"{\"shared\":{\"sf_ver\":\"1-0-2\",\"ck_on\":1,\"flash_ver\":\"20.0.0\"}}","reportCreativeGeometry":false}" scrolling="no" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" width="300" height="250" data-is-safeframe="true" style="border-width: 0px; border-style: initial; vertical-align: bottom;"> 

10:57 p.m. Update: Press conference, press release and school closure

Col. Townley Hedrick, the Fort Stewart garrison commander, held a news conference around 8:30 p.m. at the incident command center, located next to Diamond Elementary School, near where the tornado had inflicted severe damage. 

Hedrick estimated that the tornado traveled about 2-3 miles across post and confirmed that no injuries had been reported.

A news release issued Wednesday night by the Fort Stewart Public Affairs Office said the tornado touched down at about 4:55 p.m.

“Again, some significant damage to trees, vehicles, homes. But no injuries throughout the night,” he said.

The news release said that as of 10:20 p.m., power had been restored to all areas except “the vicinity of Diamond Elementary School, the North Bryan Village housing area and portions of the Eisenhower Terrace housing area.” 

Hedrick said most of Fort Stewart had regained power, but utility crews were still working to get power to some of the more severely hit areas. 

About 40 to 50 people had been affected and were given lodging at the on-post hotel, according to Hedrick.

Hedrick said he did not know the rating of the tornado that caused the damage, but it was enough to rip roofs off of permanent structures and turned over vehicles. 

The post news release said that “numerous vehicles were destroyed.”

“Stewart officials report minimum to severe damage to landscape and power grid,” the release says.  

The release said the garrison has activated Emergency Family Assistance center at Army Community Service, Building 87, and that it would remain open throughout the evening.

“The Directorates of Public Works and Emergency Services continue to clear roads and conduct damage assessments,” the release says. “People are encouraged to avoid areas with debris and downed power lines. Report downed power lines to the Fort Stewart Police Desk 912-767-4264 or to a police officer.”

The following intersections are still closed, according to PAO: Green and Davis, Bundy and Green, New Guinea and Biak, Johnson and Green, Hero and Austin, Sunbury and Hero, and Liberty and Austin. People are asked to avoid those areas while crews continue to work to reopen them.

Hedrick said that the installation received great support from the community.

“I’ve gotten numerous emails and texts from everybody in the local community” asking what the post needed, he said.

He said the community continues to be on standby and ready to assist.

Diamond Elementary School will be the only Fort Stewart school closed Thursday, according to the release. 

“Expect all other normal installation operations and hours to resume in the morning,” the release says.

PAO said damage claims should be directed to the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate 912-767-8185.

The release added that the Basic Leader Course graduation scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Newman Gym is cancelled.

Staff Sgt. Brennan Vaughn, who lives in Marne Homes with his wife, 6-year-old boy and an almost 1-year-old, was with his family when the tornado hit. 

“Well, it kind of came without warning,” he said. "We were sitting in the living room watching TV. I had just come home from work. I’d been there for about 30 minutes. And then the wind picked up, it blew our porch swing over. And when we heard that, we looked outside, saw that the wind was picking up, and I told the family to move to the back of the house.

“And as we were going through the hallway, the roof went,” he continued. “So it — the wind picked up the roof and blew the doors in, and we managed to make it into the bathroom and sit in the bathtub as it passed over. Neighbors were obviously in the same boat.”

Vaughn said it only took seconds for the tornado to damage his house and about two minutes until the storm passed.

“Nobody was hurt. Soon as I could get out of the bathroom, worked my way outside and we all came out, started checking everybody’s house," he said. "Made sure that nobody was hurt.”

Vaughn said the Balfour Beatty housing office was going to put the family in a hotel for the night.

“Zero warning. Zero," he said about the tornado. "Nothing came over, aside from the general weather warning today. Absolutely nothing came over. 

“So it hit,” he said, snapping his fingers, “like that.”

8:53 p.m. update: Woman describes tornado ripping roof off her home

Danielle Shackelford told a harrowing story of the tornado striking her home on Fort Stewart.

 “I looked out the window and I kind of just saw stuff blowing by,” said Shackelford, clutching her small dog outside the remains of her home. “I saw a tree and I just screamed, grabbed my daughter, jumped in the bathtub and screamed. My husband came, jumped on top of us, and we heard everything shatter. And then we heard a big boom and it was gone, and we walked out and there was nothing left.”

The roof was torn off nearly all of the house except for over Shackelford’s 3-year-old daughter’s bedroom.

“We just found her when we came back,” Shackelford said of her daughter, adding that she and her husband searched frantically for her after the tornado passed. “She was hiding in the pantry.”

7:30 p.m. update:

A reporter is on the scene of the  tornado that was seen touching down on Fort Stewart.

Initial reports are that around 5 p.m., a tornado moved across the golf course and hit several housing areas including Southern Oaks, Marne Point and Bryan Village. Damage to cars also has been reported, but no injuries reported at this time.

Significant damage is reported on the installation.

People on post and in the surrounding area are urged to be careful of downed power lines.

Emergency services are working together. will provide more information as it becomes available.

Original post:

A tornado was seen (unconfirmed tornado) touching down on the Fort Stewart golf course, according to GSP Trooper Eric Wilkes. There has been some damage to the golf course but no injuries reported.

It was last seen heading northeast toward Richmond Hill. There have been no word on sightings past the golf course.

The National Weather Service in Charleston has issued a tornado warning for: Bryan, Chatham, Effingham and Liberty counties until 6 p.m.

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