Columbus woman dies after being hit by falling tree limb

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 24, 2013 

The fierce storm that rolled through Columbus Wednesday afternoon claimed the life of a 57-year-old Columbus woman who was struck by a falling limb in her backyard.

Barbara McWorther was pronounced dead at her 1224 16th Street home just after 7 p.m. by Deputy Coroner Charles Newton.

“A limb had fallen on her house and it appeared she was outside checking on it when another limb broke free and hit her in the head,” Newton said.

The tree appeared to be a large oak, Newton said.

A severe thunderstorm moved through Columbus knocking down trees and power lines around 3:30 p.m.

McWorther had been dead for about an hour when a neighbor noticed something was wrong in the backyard and called 911, Newton said.

“When the neighbor walked the fence line, they saw the limb down,” Newton said.

The storm also disrupted power in parts of Columbus.

Shortly after the storm, which lasted about 30 minutes, Georgia Power spokesman Robert Watkins said 1,890 homes were without power. Early Wednesday evening, only 500 were still without power. Watkins said that most people would have their power back on by midnight. Owners of houses that suffered damage where the power comes into the house will have to contact a private contractor to repair the connection before Georgia Power can return service.

The power outages were spread over a wide area from 45th Street and Manchester Expressway to downtown to the St. Marys Road area, Watkins said.

The Columbus Consolidated Government was plagued by leaks from storm runoff that came pouring through the downtown Government Center’s roof, flooding the floors below.

On the top floor, Chief Superior Court Judge Gil McBride’s administrative assistant got doused as water came through the ceiling.

Ceiling panels in 11th floor hallways were saturated. Leaks also were reported in the jury room and other areas on the ground floor.

Government Center workers said such leaks are a recurring problem.

Attorney Richard Hagler was getting ready to leave his law office in an old house on Third Avenue, not far from the Government Center, when the storm came. Two large oak trees in front of the building came down blocking his driveway and the street. Power and telephone lines came down.

“There was a surge of wind,” Hagler said. “I heard a large crash as I was getting ready to go. Soon after, there was another explosion.

“Our building suffered some damage to a guard rail and a window but that’s about all. We were lucky.”

Also lucky was a client of Hagler who was getting ready to pull out of the driveway but backed his car up when the storm came.

Large trees also came down across the street from Hagler’s office, crashing through a fence and falling into a vacant lot.

Frank Reames, whose business B.F. Reames Automotive, said because of the strong wind and hard rain, he did not hear the trees crash but did hear loud pops believed to be power transformers blowing.

Reames said he was lucky to not have any trees near his business.

“There used to be trees but they were blown down in other storms,” he said.

One tree nearby that suffered no damage had the words “Hallelujah Yes Praise the Lord” painted on it.

There were several large tree limbs that came down in the Hilton area. One driveway on 19th Street near Carter Avenue was completely blocked, as was part of the street.

When Graham Dukes arrived at her daughter’s house on Hilton Avenue, she found the top part of a tree down and blocking the street.

“It’s really the size of a tree,” Dukes said of the fallen section. When the storm came she told her granddaughter she would not be surprised to find a tree down near the house.

“I’m just glad it was not a tree close to the house,” she said.

A number of streets in the Midtown and downtown area were reported flooded and a number of traffic lights in downtown were out, including 12th Street and Veterans Parkway. Flooding was reported on Steam Mill Road. Weracoba Park at Lakebottom looked like a lake.

The city had 44 flooding calls, but most of the water was down by the time crews arrived, Columbus Public Services Director Pat Biegler said. There were 10 calls for trees down on city property, Biegler said. All streets were expected to be cleared Wednesday night, she said.

Though no rainfall totals were available for Wednesday, Columbus received 1.93 inches of rain during a similar shower on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service Office in Peachtree City, Ga. By comparison, that was more than the city received in the first 24 days of July a year ago. That brings the total for July to 7.24 inches before Wednesday’s storm, well above the 3.62-inch average for the month.

― Staff writers Mike Owen, Mike Haskey, Tim Chitwood and Chuck Williams contributed to this report.

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