2018-07-12 / Front Page

Thunderstorms wreak havoc at park; staff and local volunteers clear debris


The recent thunderstorm on July third left tornado-like destruction at Elijah Clark State Park. Recent rains had left the ground soft, allowing the “perfect storm” to come along and wreak havoc on the busi­est day of the year. The recent thunderstorm on July third left tornado-like destruction at Elijah Clark State Park. Recent rains had left the ground soft, allowing the “perfect storm” to come along and wreak havoc on the busi­est day of the year. Nature has a way of making itself known, sometimes at what seems like the worst time possible. The employees of Elijah Clark State Park were painfully aware of that the afternoon of July 3. At approximately 5:30 p.m., a violent thunderstorm came through Lin­coln County, very similar to the ones the county has experienced in the last week or two. This time, it was different at the park. Recent storms over a number of days had made the ground soft, and with the high winds coming off the lake, the park was primed for a fair amount of damage.

The miracle was that there were no injuries to park visitors, even though five or six camping rigs, and a number of trucks were crushed by falling trees. Roads were tem­porarily blocked, and at least one of the open shelters was damaged as well.


Staff members at Elijah State Park are working to clean up debris left after the storm that toppled trees at the peak of the holiday. This tree missed the replica of Elijah Clark’s log cabin on site at the park. Luckily, no injuries have been reported. Staff members at Elijah State Park are working to clean up debris left after the storm that toppled trees at the peak of the holiday. This tree missed the replica of Elijah Clark’s log cabin on site at the park. Luckily, no injuries have been reported. The first indication to park offi­cials was loss of power and water. Trees began falling at the “point” and in all the campgrounds. A large tree also came down in front of the log cabin replica of the Elijah Clark Homestead. Several were snapped in two, but most were torn out by the roots.

Harry Hafer, park manager, was visibly tired after working most of the night, working with the Sheriff’s Office, Rayle EMC, and Johnson Equipment to clear roads and have the power restored.

“We’ve had such a wonderful response from volunteers,” Hafer said. “All types of people, both Lincoln County residents and park visitors, have come up and offered to pitch in and help clean up. One of the campers even had a chainsaw. I really want to give a big thank you to Rayle Electric and Johnson Equipment for helping to restore the park,” he said.

Of course, no place that serves the public needs anything like that kind of damage. But for it to hit on July third, the timing could not have been much worse. The park, which has the most campsites of any of the state parks in Georgia, was filled to capacity as it is every year. In fact, Elijah Clark visitors often call up to a year ahead in order to be sure that their favorite campsite is reserved for their Fourth of July vacation.

The park was also surveyed by Ray Smith, the region supervisor, and James Hamilton, assistant director of all of Georgia’s State Parks and Historic Sites. It appears that Elijah Clark State Park got the brunt of the storm, although there was additional damage at Tupelo State Park as well.

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