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Georgia tornadoes kill 6, hurt 200

CAMILLA, Ga. — Gov. Sonny Perdue promised to aid victims of tornadoes that swept through rural southwestern Georgia, killing six people, injuring more than 200 and leaving a backwash of destruction.

Perdue declared a state of emergency Thursday in Mitchell and Worth counties as victims sifted through the remains of their homes.

"We're in a budget crisis, but we will find the funds to meet the needs of these folks to the limit of Georgia law," he said.

Four people were killed in Mitchell County — two boys, ages 8 and 8 months; a 40-year-old woman; and an older man, said Jennifer Collins, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Authorities said they did not come from the same household.

Two people were killed in Worth County when a tornado hit their trailer near Bridgeboro, said Sheriff Freddie Tompkins. They were identified as Edna Causey, 77, and her son, Steve Causey, 50.

The tornadoes came as a storm system swept through the South, bringing flooding to Georgia and the Carolinas. A man in Tennessee was killed Wednesday when his mobile home was leveled by a storm that also toppled trees and power lines.

The tornadoes in Georgia destroyed an estimated 50 to 75 homes.

The last thing Francisco Mendez saw was his bedroom window flying right at him as he dove to cover his wife.

He was already awake when the alarm went off at 5 a.m. He heard the rain pounding his house and the wind blowing hard against the walls.

"I said, 'Hey, that sounds like a train,' " he said.

His wife, Rosalyn Mendez, sensed something worse. "Something tingled in my head, and I said, 'Get under the cover!' " she said.

Francisco Mendez clawed through the shattered window and remains of his roof. The couple were unharmed expect for a piece of glass lodged in Francisco Mendez's right arm.

In the light, Mendez found his wife's 44-year-old cousin lying dead on the ground next to him. Two of their nephews living nearby also died.

All but three of the injured and three of the destroyed homes were in Mitchell County, where a Valentine's Day 2000 tornado in the county seat of Camilla killed 11 people.

Many of the latest injuries were minor, but nearly 60 people sought treatment for serious head and chest injuries, broken bones and cuts, Mitchell County Hospital spokesman Rick Ivey said.

The Red Cross set up a shelter at the middle school, and officials planned to begin assessing the damage today. The Mendez family spent Thursday night at that shelter.

"We're going to thank the Lord for being here and take it one day at a time," Rosalyn Mendez said.