THOMASVILLE — Cleanup was well under way Thursday afternoon in Thomasville following an early morning storm that spawned tornado touchdowns in the area, city officials said.

Thomasville City Manager Steve Sykes gave an update on the city’s condition Thursday afternoon.

“With the damage path of this storm, we had so much property damage with very little injury,” he said.

The major areas of damage in the city coverage area were Baytree Estates, Crestwood Drive, Cindy Drive, Metcalfe Road, Magnolia Road, Tall Pines, Brookwood School and the landfill.

Sykes did not have a monetary estimate of the damage within the city limits at press time, but said the city typically reports damages to the local emergency management agency, which reports to Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

Utilities are a main cleanup priority.

“Right now we are focused primarily in restoring power on Pinetree Boulevard for the Southwestern State Hospital campus. Our goal is to have that completed by dark. Then, we have Magnolia Road near Crestwood and Pinewood that we are trying to complete by the end of the day. We have a utilities distribution line down that runs along Magnolia. Then, we have Metcalfe Road, which goes out to A Place in the Woods and other subdivisions, and that line is being repaired. We hope to have it back this evening.”

Then, crews will focus on the Tall Pines subdivision in the Cardinal Ridge area and Brookwood School, he said. Baytree Estates is not expected to be up again until some time over the weekend.

“We currently have about 600 customers without power,” Sykes said. “That number will go down during the evening as we get those services back on. Some customers will still be out of power as repairs are made.”

Trees in roads had been cleared to make them passable, but traffic is being restricted in and out of Baytree Estates because of the significant damage to that neighborhood, he said.

“We are assisting residents in Baytree retrieve personal items, but once they get out we are not allowing them back in the house if it is uninhabitable. If their home is inhabitable and they want to stay there without power during the weekend, that is their choice. The important thing right now is safety and security.”

It was estimated that about 56 tons of debris had been collected as of mid-afternoon.

Most of the damage was to homes or structures, with some equipment damaged in a storage facility at the landfill and extensive damage to parts of Brookwood School.

The school was closed Thursday and will be closed today. Plans are to reopen on Monday.

“Initial assessments show extensive damage to the preschool building, Stoddard Gymnasium, the drama building and Crozer Cafeteria,” Brookwood Headmaster Mike Notaro said. “Current assessments allow for operation of all facilities — except the preschool building, the drama building and Stoddard Gymnasium on Monday. These classes are being relocated on campus.”

Cleanup is under way at the campus, the headmaster said, and visits to the campus are not advised.

“Brookwood School thanks the Thomasville community for its warm outpouring of support after the storm,” Notaro said.

Sykes urged those who do not have business in the storm-affected areas to stay out of them.

“If you do not have business in these areas where damage has been done, please avoid going because all the traffic is doing is making it more difficult for repair by utilities crews and local officials who are trying to get these areas back to normal to the people that live there,” he said. “It’s created some traffic congestion, and it is dangerous.”

The city manager said the National Weather Service did “an outstanding job” of forecasting and warning residents of the storm. He felt early indications there could be tornado activity — along with accurate time estimates — and its alerting the public of this helped prepare the community to weather the storm.

“CNS Cable System does have a pre-emptive warning that, if there is a weather situation, it will override the programming and an audible voice will come on saying there is a warning,” Sykes said. “I know it happened last night around 12:30 a.m. or so because I was watching television when it came on.”

Sykes thanked all the local first responders and utilities crews, as well as neighboring cities and counties for their aid in storm cleanup. These include Cairo, Moultrie, Blakely, Fitzgerald, Crisp County, Tallahassee, Camilla, Douglas and Albany.

Mayor David Lewis said an event like this temporarily trumps other current concerns such as taxes or the stimulus package.

“These are issues we should be concerned about, but they don’t match that of a natural disaster,” he said.

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