BUFORD - The National Weather Service has confirmed that the storm that tore through the Gravel Springs Road area of Buford Tuesday was a tornado and Gwinnett County police have confirmed one storm-realted death in another part of the county.
The weather service says an EF2 tornado with winds gusting up to 130 mph hit the Kirkstone Subdivision.
Gwinnett County police Wednesday said 54-year-old Matthew Mitchell of Conyers died in an unincorporated area near Stone Mountain after a tree fell on the car he was driving just before 3:30 p.m. Monday. Police say a storm with strong winds was moving through the area at the time and likely caused the tree to fall.
Also Wednesday, Georgia's Insurance Commissioner said the storm left $5 million in damage to Gwinnett County alone.
"This estimate includes damage to cars as well as homes and businesses," Commissioner John Oxendine said. "Based on what I saw today, I believe we have reached $5 million."
A spokesman for Oxendine's office said a damage estimate for the rest of the state will be released later Wednesday.
Gwinnett County police spent the night guarding homes in the Buford area that were damaged by a strong storm Tuesday afternoon. Nearly 60 were damaged.
Ten Red Cross volunteers are assisting people affected by the storm with food, beverages, shelter and "emotional support." In addition, spokesman Reuben Brown, tells Georgia News Network they are helping in assessing the damage with the Gwinnett County Emergency Management Agency to try to get "a handle on the extent of the damage and try to get a better handle on the type of assistance the Red Cross can provide."
Gwinnett County authorities said no one was injured in the storm, which caused major damage to about 12 homes and was part of a system of severe weather that battered much of the state. Gwinnett County police officers spent the afternoon going door-to-door to be sure residents were safe. They advised residents of the subdivision, on Gravel Springs Road, not to spend the night at home, even if their house was livable, because of a lack of electricity and other utilities.
The area was covered in debris. Strong winds blew away chunks of homes, snapped trees and downed power lines. Police say at least one home was completely destroyed.
Sixteen year old Dillon Dodson who lives nearby came down to help friends out in the wake of the storm, which caused a gas leak in the damage area. He says his pastor helped evacuate residents.
"I heard a lot of houses got completely destroyed," Dodson said. "My pastor lives near where the gas leak is and he saved some people by getting them out of their house."
Kirkstone Subdivision resident Edward Ortiz said it sounded like a train coming.
"I personally ran into the bath room," Ortiz told reporters. "I was just trying to find a place to hide."
Ortiz said his home escaped damage unlike so many others around it: Strong winds blew away chunks of homes, snapped trees and downed power lines. Police say at least one home was completely destroyed.
Retired south Florida fire fighter Mark Naigus says he's going to remember this day; he heard the storm outside his house, as a former fireman he knew what to do, how to protect himself, he has seen hurricanes but never a tornado