ALBANY, Ga. - Residents of southwest Georgia are learning the full extent of damage to their communities Thursday morning. Hurricane Michael ravaged much of the area for about six hours until it weakened back into a tropical storm.
The rain in Albany began shortly before 4 p.m. alternating between sheets and light sprinkles. Then the wind started to pick up just two hours later.
“Oh, man, it's crazy, man. The winds blowing hard,” said Pete Jenkins.
The rain and the wind were relentless across Dougherty County. Pete Jenkins left his home in Panama City seeking higher, drier ground, but with Michael being such a powerful storm, it didn’t lose its intensity for several hours, leaving a trail of destruction inland.
“We came here to escape the rain. But now I see it's just as bad almost,” said Jenkins.
Trees swayed and signs wobbled in the wind. Sheets of rain blew across the pavement. Power was knocked out to most of the area making the night seem even darker.
There were not many shelters open in the area because they are not rated for hurricane-force winds, but the Albany Family Worship Center did open its doors to those who didn't feel safe in their own homes.
"This community devastated a couple years ago when those tornadoes come through. I mean, we lost a lot of property. Thank God we didn't have much loss of life. But devastated people. People are still just now recovering today," said Pastor Bobby Paul who knew people just needed a place to go.
Many loaded up their families and pets seeking shelter in the church. There were cots and blankets. And even music. They grabbed instruments and sang joyful music. Focusing on the warm of the of the church instead of the storm outside.
As for Pastor Paul, he was leaving a lot of what happened in the hands of a higher power.
“No, come what may. It's in God's hands,” the pastor said in response to questions he may be concerned about his own home.
Dougherty County, like many counties in South Georgia, choose to close schools Wednesday. Many businesses also shut down early as area officials warned people to stay off the roads. Those same roads were littered with trees and other debris.
Along Broad Street in Albany, the entire glass front of an events center was blown out as well as several panels above the awning ripped from the structure. It’s just one of many examples of the powerful winds which blew through the Georgia community.
As the winds died down, the power remained out and new eerie emerged in the dark.
Once daylight broke Thursday morning, residents began assessing the damage. Among the debris was a tin roof that had blown off a storage facility and landed in the parking lot of Shackleford's shopping plaza in Albany.