Four families were burned out of their Martinez apartments and trees fell around Evans during a thunderstorm that blew through Columbia County on Friday afternoon.
Lightning was blamed for a fire at Ridge Crossing Apartments, where four apartments in one building were damaged or destroyed.
All of the eight occupants were evacuated safely, said Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Danny Kuhlmann. The two second-floor apartments were gutted by fire, he said, and the bottom two suffered water damage.
"The easiest thing would be to bulldoze this building and start over," Kuhlmann said.
Firefighter Keven Stokes made two trips into the lower-floor apartment of Jane Day to rescue her two cats. Few of the belongings from the apartments were salvageable.
Ridge Crossing manager Barbara Ford said the Augusta chapter of the American Red Cross made temporary housing arrangements for the families.
Jimmy and Teretha Graham and their 17-year-old daughter, Raven, escaped after hearing the lightning strike and smelling smoke.
Earlier in the day, Teretha Graham had undergone her first chemotherapy treatment after being diagnosed a week earlier with uterine cancer, she said.
Her husband ran from the apartment barefoot and had to borrow shoes from a relative.
Around the Evans area, winds reaching 60 mph toppled trees and blew down power lines. County Emergency and Operations Director Pam Tucker said more than two inches of rain was recorded at the Government Center, where trees and signs were downed by the winds.
The storm dropped a tree onto Henry Gonzalez's truck, which was parked outside his home on Bohler Drive in Evans.
"I was in the living room just watching TV," he said. "I heard this big brush against the house."
A tree in the front yard had split, probably after a lightning strike.
Part of the tree lay blocking the road. The other half fell across Gonzalez's 2008 Chevy Silverado, which had just been repaired after a fender bender.
"I'm no assessor, but I think it's totaled," he said.
Dime-size hail fell in Evans, where about 1,300 Georgia Power customers temporarily lost power. A spokeswoman said the outage extended to about 2,500 people in eastern Georgia.
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