published Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Clean up begins from Friday's tornado outbreak

Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Chain saw-wielding workers chop up a tree that fell into the middle of a home off Davis Mill Road in Hamilton County on Saturday. Workers and residents began the cleanup process  of neighborhoods ravaged by tornadoes and storms Fridayt.
Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press Chain saw-wielding workers chop up a tree that fell into the middle of a home off Davis Mill Road in Hamilton County on Saturday. Workers and residents began the cleanup process of neighborhoods ravaged by tornadoes and storms Fridayt.
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For most of his 71 years, David Dill lived in the Short Tail Springs area, sometimes called “Dilltown.”

But he never saw the force of a storm like the one that drove a pine branch through his living room ceiling and half-buried a crowbar in his front yard.

“I saw it coming over the hill and I closed the door against the wind. Then I called out, ‘God, is this it?’” Dill said Saturday morning as he sat hunched in a chair his front yard, watching friends and family work to clear dozens of trees splintered around his home and down his long, gravel driveway.

“I’ve seen storms before but nothing like what hit yesterday,” he added.

The storms and tornadoes that pummeled the Chattanooga area on Friday — injuring at least 33 people and damaging hundreds of homes — was the second -largest outbreak in the last 25 years, according to local experts. There were no reported fatalities.

Across the country, at least 38 people were killed in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio in wave after wave of massive thunderstorms and possible tornadoes, according to The Associated Press. Most of the deaths occurred in Indiana and Kentucky.

The weather service issued 297 tornado warnings across the country Friday and early Saturday, compared to 189 warnings issued in all of February.

While they did not compare to the nightmare storms of last April 27, the number of storms and the severity were unusual for this early in the year, meteorologists said.

And with a warmer weather pattern in place because of the La Niña climate cycle this year, the Chattanooga area may continue to see more severe storms.

“When I first came here, many people believed you couldn’t have tornadoes here — the myth was that the mountains protected us,” WRCB-TV 3 meteorologist Paul Barys said. “Most people now realize that’s just not true. It has nothing to do with anything. If you have thunderstorms where you live, you can have a tornado.”

Two significant waves of severe weather pummeled east and middle Tennessee on Friday, injuring 45 people and causing damage in 18 counties, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency reported.

In about nine hours, 75 tornado warnings were issued for the state.

By 9 p.m. Saturday, at least one tornado touchdown was confirmed in Hamilton County, and Bradley County officials said they believed the damage in their county was most likely a tornado.

See complete coverage in Sunday’s Times Free press.

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