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Georgia tornado strongest this year with 185 mph winds

April 17, 2022 GMT

PEMBROKE, Ga. (AP) — The National Weather Service estimates that a tornado that hit Bryan County, Georgia had winds of 185 mph (300 kph), making it the strongest twister in the United States so far this year.

The storm killed Belinda Thompson, 66, of Ellabell and injured 12 others, including Thompson’s husband.

A National Weather Service damage survey released Friday upgraded the tornado’s strength to EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita scale from the original rating of EF-3.

A March 5 tornado that hit Winterset Iowa, with 170 mph (275 kph) winds, killing 6 people, was the strongest-rated tornado until now.

The Georgia storm had a path of nearly 13 miles and was nearly three-quarters of a mile (1.2 kilometers) wide at its widest point. It touched down about 5:15 p.m. near Pembroke and lifted off about 15 minutes later near Blitchton

Surveyors found “massive” tree damage and some homes and structures destroyed. In the county seat of Pembroke, large sections of roof got torn off the courthouse and the entryway to a government building across was demolished. The storm destroyed at least 18 homes in the county and left more than 10 others with major damage, according to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Motorists dodged the twister as it crossed Interstate 16.

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At least 82 tornadoes have been confirmed from Texas to South Carolina from April 4 through April 6. Of those nearly 30 struck in middle and south Georgia, including an EF-3 storm that destroyed two electrical transmission towers and damaged numerous homes in Bonaire. Two EF-3 storms also hit Allendale County, South Carolina.