<<opening for eyewitness news at six>>
In a matter of hours these deadly tornadoes some of the worst that we've seen in decades took mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. Even entire communities.
THE DEADLIEST STORM OUTBREAK IN NEARLY 40 YEARS HAS KILLED 280 PEOPLE ACROSS THE SOUTH... INCLUDING 14 IN GEORGIA.
FORECASTERS SAY THEY RECEIVED MORE THAN 130 TORNADO REPORTS LAST NIGHT AND THIS MORNING.
HELLO EVERYONE AND THANKS FOR JOINING US...
I'M LEAH JOHNSON..
AND I'M FRANK MALLOY..THIS IS EYEWITNESS NEWS AT SIX.
IN CENTRAL GEORGIA... A TORNADO RIPPED THROUGH LAMAR COUNTY.... KILLING TWO PEOPLE BEFORE MOVING INTO MONROE COUNTY.
CORONER JIM SMITH SAYS THE TWO VICTIMS DIED AFTER THE STORM BLASTED THROUGH THEIR HOME.
ACCORDING TO THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE... THE E-F3 TORNADO HIT THE AREA AROUND 1-30 THIS MORNING.
BOFTA YIMAM SPOKE WITH THE FAMILY AND THE COMMUNITY... ABOUT HOW THE COUPLE WILL BE MISSED.
NATS "sniffle, this... I don't know, I don't know"
LYNN GUNTER STARES AT THE DAMAGE. JUST..... STARES.
THURSDAY'S STORM RIPPED THROUGH HER TWO HOMES. SHE ARRIVED TO DEBRIS... DEVASTATION...
"I cannot explain"
AND THE UNSOOTHABLE PAIN OF LOSS.
"I need to go to the funeral home to identify them"
GUNTER SAYS HER HUSBAND'S BROTHER PAUL GUNTER... AND HIS WIFE ELLEN... DIED AFTER THE STORM STRUCK THEIR HOME. A HEAP OF FURNITURE... AND RUBBLE IS WHAT'S LEFT.
"good Christian people"
GUNTER SAYS THE RETIRED COUPLE LEAVES BEHIND THEIR ADOPTED 10-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER CHLOE AND THEIR 98-YEAR-OLD FATHER.. BOTH LIVED IN THE HOME... AND WERE TAKEN TO THE HOSPITAL.
NATS "In that area"
GUNTER SAYS HER HUSBAND DANNY AND GRANDSON BRAVED THE STORM... INSIDE HERE... NOW A DEMOLISHED TWO-STORY HOME.
"They said my husband is in the hospital and I tried to talk to him but it's hard for him to talk"
A COUPLE OTHER GUNTER FAMILY MEMBERS WHO LIVE ON THE 10-ACRE LAND... ALSO SUFFERED INJURIES.
NATS "oh God, just devastating"
DONNA JOHNSON STOPPED BY TO CHECK ON THE GUNTERs... AFTER WORD ABOUT HER FRIENDS' DEATH.
"They'd do anything, for anybody"
NATS John Jones "It's just a case of water"
GROVES STREET NEIGHBORS LIKE JOHN JONES POURED OUT SUPPORT.
NATS Jones "It's not much but we'll do what we can to help out"
NATS Gunter "That's my driveway"
WITH MANY OF HER LOVED ONES IN THE HOSPITAL... GUNTER WILL SOMEHOW.. ..SOMEWAY... WORK TO KEEP THINGS TOGETHER...
NATS "and that's gone"
AFTER THIS LATEST STORM RIPPED IT APART.
"I don't know where to start"
BOFTA YIMAM 13WMAZ EYEWITNESS NEWS
GUNTER SAYS PAUL WAS IN HIS 70'S... AND ELLEN.. IN HER 60'S.
SHE SAYS HER HUSBAND.. DANNY... WHO WAS SERIOUSLY HURT... IS LAMAR COUNTY'S ZONING ADMINISTRATOR.
SHE SAYS CHLOE IS EXPECTED TO BE OK.
THE STORM THAT KILLED PAUL AND ELLEN GUNTER THEN MOVED INTO NORTHERN MONROE COUNTY.
DAN DARBE WITH THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SURVEYED THE TRACK OF THE STORM... WHICH BLEW THREE TRACTOR TRAILERS OFF THE ROAD AND DESTROYED AT LEAST ONE HOUSE IN MONROE COUNTY.
DARBE SAYS THE TORNADO MAY HAVE BEEN ABOUT HALF A MILE WIDE... AND LASTED FOR ABOUT AN HOUR.
Dan Darbe, National Weather Service.
"I actually started in an area where it touched down as one of the strongest so far where it was an EF2 about 130 mile an hour winds. And that's where we had numerous houses damaged and one of them completely destroyed."
THE HOME DESTROYED IN THAT STORM BELONGED TO CHRIS LANDERS AND CHRISTI MERCER ON WELDON ROAD.
THEY WERE THERE LAST NIGHT WITH THEIR EIGHT YEAR OLD DAUGHTER... WHEN THEY HEARD A LOUD NOISE.
LANDERS FATHER SAYS.... ON THEIR WAY TO TAKE COVER.... THE TORNADO HIT... DESTROYING THE HOME AND INJURING ALL THREE PEOPLE.
Steve Landers: "She had gone to get Logan and get her in one of The bathrooms because they heard at the last minute they heard that freight train noise. They didn't make it. The whirl wind sucked them out." ALL THREE WENT TO HENRY COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER FOR TREATMENT FOR MINOR INJURIES.
LANDERS WORKS AS A DEPUTY WITH THE MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE.
MONROE COUNTY EMA DIRECTOR MATHEW PERRY SAYS IT'LL TAKE DAYS TO CLEAR ROADS AND RESTORE POWER IN THE COUNTY.
HE SAYS THERE HAVE BEEN NO DEATHS IN MONROE... BUT 10 PEOPLE WERE INJURED.
THE DEATH TOLL FOR THE STORMS LAST NIGHT AND THIS MORNING IS STILL RISING.
RIGHT NOW.... 14 THERE ARE CONFIRMED DEATHS IN GEORGIA... 194 IN ALABAMA... 33 IN BOTH MISSISSIPPI AND TENNESSEE...
THERE WERE ALSO 5 CONFIRMED DEATHS IN VIRGINIA AND ONE IN KENTUCKY.
THE HARDEST HIT STATE... ALABAMA.
PEOPLE THERE HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT WHAT'S LEFT OF THEIR HOMES TODAY... AND NEARBY STREETS FULL OF DEBRIS.
THE MAYOR OF TUSCALOOSA SAYS SOME NEIGHBORHOODS IN THE CITY WERE BASICALLY REMOVED FROM THE MAP.
TODAY... PRESIDENT OBAMA DECLARED A STATE OF EMERGENCY IN ALABAMA.
We can't control when and where a terrible storm may strike; but we can control how we respond to it. And I want every American who's been affected by this disaster to know that the Federal Government will do everything we can to help you recover. And we will stand with you as you rebuild.
THE STORM PREDICTION CENTER SAID IT RECEIVED 164 TORNADO REPORTS AROUND THE SOUTHEAST... BUT IT COULD TAKE DAYS TO GET A FINAL COUNT.
TOMORROW... 13WMAZ WILL JOIN THE RED CROSS IN RAISING MONEY FOR DISASTER RELIEF AFTER THE TORNADOES IN THE SOUTH.
DURING OUR NEWSCASTS AT MIDDAY, A SPECIAL ONE-HOUR NEWSCAST AT 5 P.M., AND AGAIN AT 6 P.M.
YOU CAN CALL A SPECIAL PHONE BANK IN OUR STUDIO.... WHERE RED CROSS VOLUNTEERS WILL BE READY TO TAKE YOUR PLEDGES OF SUPPORT.
TODAY'S 13WMAZ DOT COM WEB POLL... WILL YOU TAKE STEPS TO PROTECT YOUR HOME BECAUSE OF THIS WEEK'S STORMS?
SO FAR 62 PERCENT OF YOU SAY NO.
AND 38 PERCENT SAY YES.
VOTE NOW... LOOK FOR THE QUESTION IN THE "DON'T MISS" BOX ON OUR HOMEPAGE.
STATE SENATOR ROBERT BROWN BECOMES THE FOURTH DEMOCRAT TO ANNOUNCE HIS CANDIDACY FOR MACON MAYOR.
BROWN.. CURRENT MINORITY LEADER OF THE GEORGIA SENATE.. SAYS HE'LL RESIGN HIS SENATE SEAT ON THE DAY HE QUALIFIES FOR HIS MAYORAL CAMPAIGN.
HE PROMISED TO REDUCE CRIME AND PUT THE CITY'S FINANCIAL HOUSE IN ORDER.
<<STATE SENATOR ROBERT BROWN ENDED MONTHS OF SPECULATION ABOUT HIS POLITICAL FUTURE WITH HIS ANNOUNCEMENT THAT HE'LL BE A DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR MACON MAYOR.
BROWN SAYS MACON NEEDS AN EXPERIENCED LEADER TO TACKLE THE CITY'S PROBLEMS.. TOO MUCH CRIME.. A DECAYING INFRASTRUCTURE.. AND LACKING FISCAL DISCIPLINE.
Robert Brown, Democratic Mayoral Candidate: So I'm going to offer myself for mayor. I'm going to work very hard to become the mayor and once I become the mayor, I'm going to work very hard to Macon the city we all want it to be.
HE SAYS RETURNING MACON AS CENTRAL GEORGIA'S LEADING CITY WOULD BE A PRIORITY.
Robert Brown, Democratic Mayoral Candidate: Macon has lost its shine so to speak as a regional center. We're still the regional center, but we don't have the same shine that we had at one time, and by that I mean we're not regarded as moving forward and being the leader in the region.
FORMER STATE REPRESENTATIVE DUBOSE PORTER OF DUBLIN AGREES.. SAYING THE MIDSTATE NEEDS A THRIVING.MACON
DuBose Porter, Former State Representative: I'm supporting Robert Brown.
HE SAYS THAT'S BECAUSE BROWN COULD HELP THE ENTIRE REGION.
DuBose Porter, Former State Representative. We've got to move our area of the state forward. It's going to take the right leadership to do that, somebody that can bring everybody together and move forward.
PORTER SAYS BROWN'S THE BEST PERSON FOR THAT.
RANDALL SAVAGE.. 13 WMAZ.. EYEWITNESS NEWS.
BROWN BECOMES THE FOURTH DEMOCRAT TO ANNOUNCE FOR MAYOR..THE OTHERS ARE MAYOR ROBERT REICHERT..FORMER MAYOR C. JACK ELLIS.. AND MACON FIREFIGHTER PAUL BRONSON.
REPUBLICAN DAVID COUSINO ALSO PLANS TO SEEK THE POSITION.
MUCH OF MACON'S STORM DRAINAGE SYSTEM... IS ALMOST AS OLD AS THE CITY ITSELF.
AND THAT'S SAYING SOMETHING.
MACON WAS FOUNDED ONE HUNDRED 88 YEARS AGO...
BUT AS ELEANOR LISSITZYN REPORTS...MOST OF THE DRAINAGE SYSTEM BENEATH THE DOWNTOWN NEEDS TO BE FIXED TO KEEP PEOPLE SAFE AND BUILDINGS UPRIGHT.
AND ONE CITY OFFICIAL SAYS... IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN SOON.
nats of rushing water
FOUR FOOT HIGH BRICK TUNNELS..
nats drip drip drip
TEN FEET UNDERGROUND...
IN OTHER WORDS.. A CLAUSTROPHOBIC'S WORST NIGHTMARE...
nats of manhole cover coming off
YOU MAY NEVER CRAWL DOWN A MANHOLE TO POKE AROUND DOWNTOWN MACON'S DRAINAGE SYSTEM... BUT CITY ENGINEER BILL CAUSEY SAYS DON'T TAKE WHAT'S DOWN THERE FOR GRANTED
"If we want streets and roads to drive on we have to have a drainage system that works."
ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS AGO THESE TUNNELS BEGAN FUNNELING WATER FROM CITY STREETS TO THE OCMULGEE RIVER.
CITY WORKERS LAID MOST OF THESE BRICKS RIGHT AFTER THE CIVIL WAR...
"They've been here a long time, they've done their job."
THE BRICK AND CLAY PIPES LIE UNDER MORE THAN HALF OF DOWNTOWN MACON ...AND CAUSEY SAYS THEY'RE SLOWLY FALLING APART.
Causey: "You see the roof? See how it's coming down? See the bricks on the ground? The roof is falling in.
THE BRICKS AND THE MORTAR BETWEEN THEM ARE SO OLD THEY JUST FALL OUT OF THE CEILING.
EVERYTIME THAT HAPPENS... IT CREATES A VACUUM... SUCKING BITS OF THE ASPHALT FROM THE ROAD ABOVE DOWN IN TO THE PIPES.
STAND UP: " And that can create sinkholes... and a big problem for public safety. "
A PROBLEM THE CITY MAY HAVE NARROWLY AVOIDED SIX MONTHS EARLIER.
LAST OCTOBER CAUSEY DROVE DOWN FIRST STREET AND NOTICED SETTLING IN THE ASPHALT.
"We cameraed the line to find out what was going on underneath."
WHAT HE SAW STARTLED HIM... FOR DECADES UTILITY COMPANIES PUNCHED HOLES THROUGH THE DRAINS TO INSTALL THEIR OWN PIPES...
"Theres a 16 inch water main right through the middle of the pipe."
THAT DAMAGE AND THE CONSTANT RUNOFF ERODED THE BRICK TUNNELS SO SEVERELY, CAUSEY SAYS HE COULD REACH UP AND TOUCH THE UNDERSIDE OF THE PAVEMENT.
"That was terrible, I... I knew how much heavy traffic goes on that street everday.
THEY SHUT DOWN THE STREET IMMEDIATELY AND BEGAN REPAIRS THAT CONTINUED TO THIS ALLEY.
SO FAR HE SAYS THEY'VE MANAGED TO PREVENT A MAJOR COLLAPSE.
"We're struggling to stay proactive."
HE SAYS THE HARDEST PART ISN'T GETTING THE WORK DONE...
BUT GETTING THE NEARLY THIRTY MILLION DOLLARS HE ESTIMATES HE'LL NEED TO DO IT.
CAUSEY USED FIVE MILLION DOLLARS FROM 2003 SPLOST TO FIX THE MOST URGENT DRAINAGE PROBLEMS.
BUT MOST OF THAT IS SPENT... AND SO FAR THERE ARE NO NEW FUNDS ON THE HORIZON.
CAUSEY SAYS HE HOPES THE NEW SPLOST PROPOSAL THIS FALL...WILL INCLUDE DRAINAGE FUNDS.
MAYOR ROBERT REICHERT SAYS HE KNOWS ABOUT THE NEED FOR DRAINAGE REPAIR... BUT THE COUNTY MAKES THE DECISIONS ABOUT THE SPLOST.
BIBB COUNTY COMMISSION CHAIRMAN SAM HART SAYS THE COUNTY WILL BEGIN TO DECIDE NEXT MONTH WHAT TO PUT INTO THE SPLOST.
EARLY THIS MORNING... HUNDREDS OF MOTORCYCLES AND POLICE CARS FILLED WITH VETERANS AND SERVICE MEMBERS... ROLLED THROUGH HOUSTON COUNTY.
THE MOTORCADE BROUGHT THE MOVING WALL VIETNAM MEMORIAL... TO CENTRAL GEORGIA.
VOLUNTEERS AND MEMBERS OF THE MILITARY HELPED SET UP THE WALL... WHICH SHOWS THE NAMES OF MORE THAN 58 THOUSAND SERVICE MEMBERS WHO DIED DURING THE VIETNAM WAR.
DURING THE KOREAN WAR... BILL FREEMAN SAYS HE WAS CAPTURED TWICE... THE SECOND TIME ... HE WAS ONE OF ONLY TWO SURVIVORS OUT OF 28 CAPTURED.
Bill Freeman, Macon: "When you see allt hese honored men and women, that they're name sae on this wall, it does somethin' to you, it's hard to explain the felling you feel down inside."
SERVICE MEMBERS AND VOLUNTEERS WILL READ ALL 58 THOUSAND... 253 NAMES ON THE WALL.
THE MEMORIAL IS OPEN 24 HOURS A DAY... THROUGH MAY FIRST AT VETERANS HIGH SCHOOL IN HOUSTON COUNTY.