Robin Huey woke Wednesday morning to a roaring wind and rain blowing in the bedroom window of her apartment on Kaiser Street in Bremen, where she has lived since 2009.
She got up on her knees in her bed to close the window and look outside. Seconds later a tree came crashing through her bedroom ceiling, one of three that fell at the complex of apartment buildings.
“The whole house was just shaking,” Huey said, adding, “I had no warning.”
Minutes after the tree hit, as she and her neighbor were getting ready to call 9-1-1, that’s when the storm siren went off, she said.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for Haralson County at 7:40 a.m. on Wednesday, said Nikole Listemaa, senior forecaster for the Peachtree City office of the weather service. Just five minutes later, at 8:45 a.m., the Bremen Fire Department responded to a call about the trees down on the apartment complex on Kaiser Street, said Bremen fire Chief Jason Hurley.
“The tree had fallen on two of the units,” Hurley said. “We removed one so people could access their apartments.”
Luckily there were no injuries, he said.
On Thursday, the service confirmed that it was a high-end EF0 or low-end EF1 tornado with 80 to 85 mph winds that passed through the city. A survey crew in Haralson County on Thursday spent the morning documenting the damage to try to prove it was a tornado that passed through the area, said Keith Stellman, meteorologist in charge.
"Obviously we saw enough on the radar yesterday to issue a tornado warning for here," Stellman said. "The second thing is then once we get damage to come out and look."
Straightline wind damage will look different than a tornado. Tornado damage will be more concentrated and it will be convergent toward the inside of a tornado, he said. They started at the damage on Kaiser Street but followed the signature of the storm on the radar to see what proof they could find that it was a tornado.
"The thing that put it over the edge is that all of the damage is facing due north and the storm was heading east," Stellman said. "Straightline winds wouldn't have done that."
As they followed the path of the tornado, Stellman noted that Jones Elementary School was in the direct line, but the tornado lifted just before it got there.
Everyone was out of Huey’s building, which has four apartments, on Wednesday afternoon. The power was out and the tree was still leaning on the apartment as she tried to recover some items before going to the Holiday Inn Express in Bremen.
As for Huey, she counted herself lucky, she said. She has insurance and was able to go to a hotel while the damage at her apartment is fixed and, although it was a frightening experience, she was not injured.
She surveyed the damage in her bedroom on Wednesday afternoon. Her bed was covered with insulation and a large piece of the bedroom ceiling leaned against the headboard from where it fell onto the mattress where she had been sleeping moments before the tree fell; rain freely fell through a gaping hole in the roof.
“Puts a whole new perspective on things,” Huey said. “I feel God had his arms around me; so I feel blessed.”
The same storm that caused the damage in Haralson County also caused damage in Heard, Harris and Talbot counties, Listemaa said.