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Apparent Tornado Hits Georgia

March 20, 1998

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP)_ An apparent tornado touched down north of Gainesville early today, damaging homes, chicken houses and an elementary school. There were reports of one person killed and others injured.

Parts of three highways were closed because of debris.

WDUN Radio said the Hall County Sheriff’s Department confirmed the death, but no details were available.

The National Weather Service did not immediately confirm the storm was a tornado, but witnesses said the damage was consistent with a twister. Aerial television footage showed a path of damage half a mile wide and 10 miles long.

About a third of Lanier Elementary School was damaged when the storm hit about 6:30 a.m., said Lee Lovett, an assistant superintendent for the Hall County school system. He said he knew of no injuries there.

``This happened before school time,″ so it was believed no children were present, he said. ``I won’t say there was no one there; we do have employees that get there early.″

At least two portable buildings also were destroyed at North Hall Middle School, Lovett said.

He said the middle school, North Hall High School and five elementary schools, including Lanier, were closed today because of damage or impassable roads.

Damage also was reported in White and Rabun counties, north of Hall County in northeast Georgia. Gainesville is about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta.

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