Friday, April 24, 2020
Tifton, Georgia
Some of the damage in Adel on Thursday after storms roared through town.
Suspected tornadoes roared through South Georgia on Thursday , causing extensive damage in Adel, Moultrie and in several other area communities .

Buildings had roofs stripped , trees were shredded and utility lines were down throughout the area during the afternoon storms , which struck midday. Thousands of homes and businesses were without electricity .

There were no immediate reports of any injuries .

Witnesses also told authorities that several possible tornadoes were spotted on the ground in Colquitt County , including one near Hamilton Elementary School on Highway 111 . Several structures were heavily damaged in Moultrie as a possible tornado tore through the city.

While it was under a tornado watch , Tift County was spared from the severe storms. Tifton recorded 2.23 inches of rain Thursday and had maximum winds of 29.2 mph , according to the University of Georgia's weather station at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station.

The National Weather Service's Tallahassee, Fla., office is compiling data about the South Georgia storms and will make determinations on tornado designations .

Storms tore through several Southern states Thursday , causing major damage in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida . At least seven people were killed in the Southern storms and dozens were injured , authorities said.
Storms pummeled Moultrie on Thursday. At left, Dr. Matthew Carter's dental office at Longleaf Office Park was ripped open. In the photo above by Stephanie Wyatt, an apparent tornado is spotted from the Holiday Inn in Moultrie.
Tifton Grapevine
Several Tifton businesses plan to reopen today following Gov. Brian P. Kemp's controversial decision to allow specified types of businesses to open if they follow safety requirements during the current pandemic .

Kemp  is  allowing  businesses such as  gyms hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors,   massage therapists  and  bowling alleys  to  reopen   Friday . The governor said that  theaters  and  dine-in restaurants  will be  allowed  to  reopen  on  Monday, April 27 , if they follow the guidelines.

Reopened businesses must adhere to specified social-distancing requirements  and other  safety standards , such as screening workers for fever and respiratory illness.

Among local gyms planning to open their doors today are J&J Weight Room and Destiny Fitness in Tifton .

"Though we are returning, we must continue to practice social distancing by staying six feet from any other staff or members. Our staff has been working diligently to keep our gyms both clean and sanitized and will continue as we open our doors again," Destiny Fitness said on social media.

"Please also help us in this matter by wiping down all equipment after use, use a mask or cover for protection, and by staying home if you are sick or have any symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath or fever. We will be assessing member’s temperatures as they enter to also assist in the prevention of spreading COVID-19," Destiny Fitness said.

The Tiftarea YMCA sent a note to members Thursday saying the YMCA will remain closed through at least April 30 . The Y said it is working on a phased reopening plan and that "our decisions are guided and assisted by our local health care system , resources from around the state of Georgia and a strong Board of Directors ."

Several Tifton hair and nail salons also plan to reopen today , including Transitions Hair & Color Salon and Posh Salon . They say they're taking the safety requirements seriously and will handle scheduled appointments.

Among local restaurants planning to reopen for dine-in customers is 41 & Main on Tifton's Main Street. B.J. Smith said she plans to reopen the restaurant on May 1 with a limited lunch menu , restricting capacity to no more than 50 people and following all social distancing and safety requirements.

While some people have criticized Gov. Kemp for allowing some businesses to reopen, others say these businesses have been especially hurt by closures to contain the coronavirus and are in a situation where they could permanently fail if not allowed to reopen.

Kemp and state health officials say new cases of the virus in Georgia are declining , though they still remain high in some areas , such as Albany and Dougherty County .

President Trump said late Wednesday that he opposes Kemp’s decision to reopen some businesses now, adding that it is "just too soon." Trump said reopening now in Georgia is "in violation of the phase one guidelines " that he has outlined.

The White House's Phase One guidelines suggest that documented COVID-19 cases and the percentage of new positive tests show a decline for at least 14 days before restrictions are lifted. Georgia does not yet meet that test .

Kemp does have some elected officials in his corner. State Sen. Carden Summers , R-Cordele, who represents Tift County , said Thursday that the governor's decision is "a s tep in the right direction to returning back to normal ."
A Message from Todd Tillman, 
our Local Business Development Manager:
A video camera captured the image of the bank robber running across the street from the Tifton bank through the parking lot of Badcock Home Furniture on Second Street.
A man who robbed a Tifton bank after threatening to blow it up has pleaded guilty to the crime, says Charlie Peeler , the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. 

Randy Angelo Hill , 34, of Tifton , pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of bank robbery during a video teleconference hearing before U.S. District Judge Louis Sands . Hill is facing a maximum 20 years in prison. He remains in custody pending his sentencing.

Hill admitted under oath that he robbed South Georgia Banking Co. at 725 West Second St. on Oct. 2, 2018 . Undisguised, Hill dropped a plastic bag over the teller counter and told an employee, “This is a robbery . I have a bomb . Put money in the bag. I will blow everybody up here.”

Hill fled on foot with stolen cash and was apprehended by Tifton Police that day.

“The defendant is facing serious consequences for striking terror into the bank’s hard-working employees and customers. Violent criminal acts will not be tolerated in the Middle District of Georgia,” said Peeler . “I want to commend the Tifton Police Department and the Tift County Sheriff’s Office for quickly apprehending the defendant and working alongside the FBI investigating this crime.”

“This is good news for our community and South Georgia Bank , and we certainly hope this sends a message to others that have considered doing robberies that it doesn't pay, nor will it be tolerated in our community," said Tifton Police Chief Steve Hyman.
Graduates of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College will hear their names called on their cell phones, iPads, and computers on May 7 when ABAC presents its first virtual commencement ceremony.

“Thanks to the hard work of our media team, we have put together a program that will recognize all graduates individually , calling their names, and allowing their friends and family to celebrate their achievements at ABAC,” said President David Bridges .

“We would love to be able to celebrate with our graduates in person, but that’s not possible this year.”

As one of the 26 colleges and universities in the University System of Georgia , ABAC is not having its spring ceremony this year because of the pandemic . All university system students are completing spring semester course work online .

ABAC's virtual ceremony will air at 10 a.m. May 7 on , on ABAC’s Facebook page, and on ABAC’s YouTube page. A total of 429 graduates will be recognized.

“We hope you will enjoy it,” Bridges said. “We are proud of the accomplishments of these graduates and wish them well as they go out and make their mark in the world.”
Some local nonprofit organizations are receiving grants from the COVID-19 Relief Fund of the Community Foundation of South Georgia .

The Tiftarea YMCA, Peanut Butter & Jesus of Tifton , and the Cook County Family Connection are among 40 groups across South Georgia receiving grants totaling $200,000 .

The grants were directed to organizations working on the frontlines of the relief effort in local communities who are serving those most at-risk , such as seniors , children , and low-income or food-insecure individuals.

Nearly $500,000 has been raised so far, and the Community Foundation plans another round of grants with distribution by mid-May .
James Alex Hardy from Hawkinsville has been selected as the 2020 Master Farmer Award recipient by the Alumni Association at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College .

The Master Farmer Award is presented in recognition of alumni who have distinguished themselves as outstanding farmers .

Hardy graduated from ABAC in 1969 with his degree in agriculture . The Hardy family has been growing peanuts in the heartland of Georgia for more than 70 years.  Hardy Farms is a leading producer of fresh green and boiled peanuts with an annual output of more than 6 million pounds sold all over the United States .

Hardy is a former director of the Dodge County Farm Bureau , a former director and chairman of the board of the Heart of Georgia Peanut & Gin Corp. , and a director and former chair of the Agriculture Committee of the Hawkinsville-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce.

A District High Yield Award winner for peanut production several times, Hardy has been a District Soil and Conservation Award winner, and Hardy Farms was named the Business of the Year

One year ago, "Billy" had captured the hearts of Tift County dog rescuers , but hope began to fade for finding him a home . Then, a young woman from Alabama reached out, adoption papers were signed, transport was arranged, and Billy became a free dog.

His owner, Kaitlin Higginbotham , recently shared an update :

Billy "has grown into confidence that he’s very loved and safe . He knows we’re his people and is glued to our sides . He’s the sweetest buddy , and we feel so lucky that he’s ours. He’s our 'death-row dog,' and we couldn’t love him more ."
Pets of the Week are sponsored by:
Branch’s Veterinary Clinic
205 Belmont Ave., Tifton, 229-382-6055   
Important Phone Numbers & Web Sites
Ida Mae Stephens Kilcrease, 95, Sylvester
The Rev. Wilbur Dale Bullock, 86, Nashville
Bernice Branch Smith, 75, Tifton

The Rev. Loyd “Clinton” Moore, 68, Tifton
Mack Stewart Sr., 67, Tifton

Dorothy Gibbs Chapman, 91, Irwin County
John E. Paulk, 74, Fitzgerald

Edith Sandifer Adcock, 91, Tifton
Edward “Buddy” Martin Dixon, 92, Omega
Harriett J Kitchen, 72, Douglas

Charles “Chuck” Jackson Henderson, 54, Waterloo
Rayford Theodore Suggs, 81, Tifton
William Shelly Whitten, 67,
William David “Billy” Zorn, Sr., 79, Irwin County
Bobby Lee Rhodes, 69, Ashburn

Esther Jean Knoch Elliott, 71, Tifton
Briggs Van Graves, infant, Tifton
Sarah Katherine Hendley, 86, Nashville
Elder Jimmy Chapman, 77, Irwin County
Johnny Buck Davis, 78, Ashburn
Wanda Faye Tucker Smith, 71, Tifton
Rose Sharon McDaniel Rooks, 85, Tifton
Elder Cleston M. Brooks, 79, Sylvester

Benjamin Harmon Crum, 63, Enigma
Barbara Roberts, 82, Norman Park
Tifton Grapevine
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Frank Sayles Jr.
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Bonnie Sayles
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