published Thursday, April 28th, 2011

UPDATED: Chattanooga area storm deaths going up by the hour

This aerial photo shows the destruction in Ringgold today after storms ravaged the southeastern United States Wednesday.
This aerial photo shows the destruction in Ringgold today after storms ravaged the southeastern United States Wednesday.
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Did you have property damage from Wednesday's storms?
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  • No. 60%

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Local officials have confirmed 78 deaths as a result of Wednesday's storms.

Hamilton County, Bradley County and Sequatchie County officials have confirmed 19 deaths, and Dade and Catoosa County officials have recorded ten.

Bledsoe County officials also have confirmed at least four deaths. In Alabama, DeKalb County and Jackson County officials said storms killed 44 and injured more than 100.

Rhea County officials earlier presumed Bledsoe County's four fatalities as their own. There were no fatalities in Rhea County.

According to Hamilton County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Janice Atkinson, nine people died in the county during Wednesday’s weather.

In Apison, authorities confirmed eight deaths, with four on Clonts Road and four on Bates Road.

Hamilton County Emergency Services director Don Allen called Wednesday’s weather “the worst storm on record in Hamilton County.”

Stan Clark, public information officer for Bradley County, confirmed nine deaths in Bradley county and “multiple” injured people.

Catoosa County Sheriff Phil Summers confirmed eight fatalities and said this morning that a tornado touched down about 8:30 p.m. near the Interstate 75 and Highway 151 interchange.

At times, the tornado was about one mile in width, Summers said. More than 30 people are injured, he said.

Officials said it would take “days” before downtown Ringgold is stabilized, and teams are still searching for potential victims at what’s left of hotels, restaurants and gas stations near the interchange.

“Hopefully, it will be a rescue situation,” Summers said.

Ringgold Middle School and Ringgold High School both sustained damage.

“They won’t be going to school anytime soon,” said Catoosa County Commissioner Ken Marks.

Ringgold Mayor Joe Barger has confirmed the identity of one of Wednesday's storm victims — Rhea McClanahan, 89, a former Ringgold councilman, died as his house collapsed.

Sequatchie County’s lone fatality was Zack Davis, who drowned in a creek toward the south end of Dunlap, according to Chief Deputy Randall Lockhart.

The lone known Chattanooga victim is Mai Crumley, 41, who died when a tree hit her trailer home at 6136 Tall Pine Lane, police said.

Dade County Executive Ted Rumley confirmed two deaths and said the entire county — about 17,000 people — is without power. Dade County High School is the American Red Cross point of contact for anyone needing food, water and shelter.

Hamilton County Emergency Services spokeswoman Amy Maxwell confirmed that, as of midnight Thursday, 28 people had been transported via ambulances to local hospitals with serious injuries.

Emergency Services personnel went door-to-door in Apison, searching for missing and injured.

Maxwell said several people are missing in Hamilton County, but she did not have a number.

In Bradley County, authorities found the dead in open areas, trailer homes and other buildings. A curfew in the county was enforced between midnight and 6 a.m. this morning. Officials are considering a similar arrangement tonight.

Bradley County and Catoosa County officials reported several cases of looting.

Bradley County received 49 calls of people trapped in the rubble, according to a news release. At one point, the 911 call center had 178 active calls on 10 switchboards.

About 5,700 are without power in the Cleveland area, according to Cleveland Utilities General Manager Tom Wheeler. A total of about 10,000 are without power in Bradley County.

Roads closed to all traffic except emergency vehicles in Apison are the following — London Lane, Bill Jones at McGee Road, East Brainerd Road at Apison Pike and Blair Road at McDonald Road.

In the aftermath of the storm, Blood Assurance is asking for the public to donate blood.

The nonprofit hopes to get 1,200 units in the next two days, officials said. All locations are open, except for the one in Fort Payne, Ala.

After a helicopter tour of Trenton and Ringgold, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal called the damage “truly devastating.”

“Obviously nature is a powerful force, and we saw that yesterday,” Deal said.

Georgia Department of Transportation crews have been mobilized, he said, and the state may use inmates to clear the roads more quickly.

The governor praised residents for paying attention to weather warnings, saying the death toll could have been much higher if not for their vigilance.

Later, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam toured the storm's path.

DeKalb County, Ala., officials will impose curfew from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. beginning today and continuing “until further notice,” according to a news release.

Staff writers Randall Higgins, Andy Johns and Mariann Martin contributed to this report.

Read more in tomorrow’s Times Free Press.

Aerial view of Ringgold devastation
Watch raw aerial video footage of severe weather that hit Ringgold, Ga., Wednesday.
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