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Collier Road man walks away from direct hit by twister

‘I’m sore and wondering why I am still here.’ That’s how Chris Burkett summed up his situation after miraculously cheating death when a tornado struck his living quarters early April 13. Burkett lived in an apartment inside an aircraft hangar on property owned by Tommy Treadwell on Collier Road in Monroe County not far from the Georgia Public Safety Training Center and near the Lamar County line. Burkett was sleeping when a weather alert sounded on his cell phone at 2:30 a.m. He got up, dressed and pulled a Coke out of a cooler. As is his habit, he went out on his porch to watch the storm. At first the storm didn’t seem too bad. Lightning revealed otherwise clear skies. Burkett had no way to know he was watching the same EF3 tornado that had just ravaged Upson County. The tornado roared through the Antioch community on Yatesville Road, lifting up just before it got to Hwy. 341 South here near Deer Trail Country Club. It touched back down right on top of the hangar. Burkett knew things were intensifying. The building began to shake, appliances rattling in their braces. Burkett dove into the bathroom, lying down between the toilet and bath tub. As he lay there, the hangar imploded all around him. He was trapped but worked one arm free. He smelled gas. He managed to call 911 and a group of deputies headed out to help. They were delayed because they had to cut trees out of the road to reach the property. When they finally got there, they could hear Burkett screaming. He was found trapped under metal beams and about four feet of debris. The bathroom vanity had his leg pinned to the ground. The deputies finally cut him out. He was battered and bruised but not seriously injured. His dogs, Lucy a Maltese and Kiah a blue heeler, were missing and he feared the worst. Burkette works at Diversified Fabricators in Griffin. Nearly every afternoon after work, he stops by Zeke Harvey’s tree farm on Chappell Mill Road here and helps with odd jobs and mechanical work. ‘His dog Kiah is always with him,’ Harvey said. Harvey had ridden out the storm at his farm and, when the all clear was sounded, he turned off his phone and went to sleep. When he awoke, he had multiple missed calls and messages from Burkett and rushed to help. ’It looked like a bomb had gone off. He said the whole thing lasted like five seconds. It is a miracle anyone could live through that,’ Harvey said. Harvey began working with other volunteers to clear debris. Lucy showed up but Kiah was still missing. ‘There were parts of a Jeep and a truck and an airplane in there. We lifted up part of it and Kiah came running out. The dog was fine and Burkett was overjoyed,’ Harvey said. A reporter asked Burkett later what the storm sounded like. ‘People say tornados sound like a train but it really sounds like you are lying on the tracks and the train is running over the top of you. It was a hell of a night but once we found Kiah nothing else mattered. I have been blessed to survive the worst night of my life,’ Burkett concluded. (Editor’s note: Much of the information in this story came from Will Davis of the Monroe County Reporter.)

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