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Severe Weather Rips Across Southeast; Ga. Gov. Declares State Of Emergency

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now let's visit a Georgia town devastated by tornadoes. Violent storms across the Deep South killed at least 18 people over the weekend, and Adel, Ga., was especially hard hit. Here's Grant Blankenship of Georgia Public Broadcasting.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)

GRANT BLANKENSHIP, BYLINE: First Assembly Church of God in Adel became the hub of storm relief efforts by noon Sunday. The Fellowship Hall is filled to the brim with the essentials people lost - clothes, diapers, shoes. Pastor Eric Gordon says the congregation got to work not long after the storm blasted through.

ERIC GORDON: We began to make phone calls and put the word out on social media, and that's when everything just - it has just spiraled from there.

BLANKENSHIP: Georgia's governor has declared a seven-day state of emergency for seven South Georgia counties. Gordon says he's never seen anything like this.

GORDON: I'm 38 years old, raised here for most of my life and can't tell you the last time this has happened.

BLANKENSHIP: You get a sense of what he means a little south of Adel, where the tornado tore up an area about the size of four football fields. Andrea Watts is trying to get in past a sheriff's roadblock there. She's a home health nurse, and she's trying to find her elderly patient.

ANDREA WATTS: The lines are down, and the roads are messed up really bad. And they said it was a thunderstorm, this is a little more like a tornado. And I should be here hours ago.

BLANKENSHIP: She's turned away at the roadblock, and her patient isn't answering the phone. Not far from there, it's obvious the tornado has passed through - pine trees are snapped in half, pieces of houses are in the trees. The home in the middle of the Bullard family's vegetable farm is obliterated. Jenny Bullard has her arm in a sling and wears a hospital bracelet as she talks with friends in what was the family kitchen. She gestures past the rubble.

JENNY BULLARD: That's my bedroom right there.

BLANKENSHIP: She says when the storm woke her at 3:30 in the morning, her windows were bulging in and out like sheets of plastic.

BULLARD: I grabbed my phone and I opened my door. And as soon as I opened it, that wall right there just came over on me.

BLANKENSHIP: She dug herself out. Neither Bullard, nor her parents were seriously injured.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I'm glad you fine, though.

BULLARD: Thank y'all for coming.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Let me get some love. I love you.

BLANKENSHIP: A few hours later, another tornado touches down about 75 miles to the north. For NPR News, I'm Grant Blankenship in Adel, Ga. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.