1 dead, 16 injured as severe storms pelt Ga., Ala.

Published 8:26 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

ATLANTA (AP) — One person was killed and at least 16 were injured when fierce thunderstorms swept Georgia and Alabama with tornadoes, hail and lightning, downing trees and power lines, authorities said Thursday.

The National Weather Service planned to send out teams to check on possible tornado touchdowns after the severe weather front moved through from Wednesday afternoon into the night.

In Alabama, an apparent tornado uprooted trees in Geneva near the Florida line. No injuries were reported.

In Georgia, Kent McMullen, a meteorologist with the weather service in Peachtree City, said the reported death was in the Hancock County town of Sparta, about 88 miles southeast of Atlanta. Authorities have not released the person’s name.

A spokesman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency said besides the fatality, three others were injured in Hancock County.

GEMA spokesman Buzz Weiss said 10 people were injured in Thomas County, which borders Florida, and as many as 100 structures were damaged in Jasper County in central Georgia.

The storms also damaged at least two schools in Fayette County south of Atlanta.

Another two people were reported injured in Spalding County and one each in Coweta and Putnam counties. The Coweta County injury was from a lightning strike.

Georgia Power Co. reported more than 4,000 customers lost power at the height of the storms Wednesday night, with all but about 60 restored by Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s Electric Membership Corporations restored power to nearly 9,400 customers who lost it Wednesday night. Crews worked Thursday morning to reconnect a couple of hundred customers in Jasper and Spalding counties after about 30 utility poles were broken in the storm.