By Marcus Stern
ATLANTA (Reuters) - Southern Georgia cleanup crews were hampered on Saturday by more severe weather after tornadoes, thunderstorms and high winds lashed northern areas of the state on Friday night, leaving one dead and hundreds of homes badly damaged, officials said.
In the northern part of the state, crews were cutting up fallen trees, repairing sagging or severed power lines and clearing household debris strewn through small towns and subdivisions north of Atlanta.
In Alpharetta, an 83-year-resident was killed when she wandered from her house during the severe weather, said George Gordon, spokesman for the Alpharetta Department of Public Safety.
Patricia Barnett was found dead on Saturday more than 100 yards downstream from a large drainage pipe where authorities believe she went to seek shelter in the apparent belief it was a safer place to be than home during a tornado, Gordon said. They believe rising water carried her downstream to her death.
"It was just a tragic circumstance," Gordon said.
Near Rockmart, Georgia, Pam and Eric Hicks were salvaging what they could from what had been the attached garage to their home.
"Put that aside," Mrs. Hicks told a young man who was helping them draped a very soggy family Bible in front of her. "It was my mom's when she and my daddy got married."
The Hicks had been eating dinner with two of their children, a pregnant niece and a family friend when Mrs. Hicks stepped out the front door, looked to her right and saw a wide, fast-moving tornado coming directly at the house, she said.
"The maternal instincts kick in and the only thing you know is to protect. You don't have time to think," she said.
She quickly herded the other five people in the house into the same small bedroom closet.
"My husband had just gotten in, squatted down and shut the door and the whole house started shaking," she said.
Her husband Eric remembered trying to hold down shelves in the closet as they started to rise. But then the roaring, shaking and rising stopped as quickly as it began, he said.
When they emerged from their closet, they found the roof above their kitchen had blown away, as had most of their front porch and two walls and the roof of their garage.
On Saturday, the storm system passing through southern Georgia was less severe but the National Service still posted tornado watches through the afternoon.
There were more than two dozen reports of tornado sightings and high winds on Saturday in southern areas of the state. But the system weakened by evening and those storm warnings and watches were lifted, according to the NWS.
(Reporting By Marcus Stern; Editing by Peter Bohan)