published Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Live storm coverage as forecasts point to more severe weather

 
Live storm coverage
TORNADO WATCH

• Franklin County, Tenn., is under a tornado watch until 10 p.m. CDT.

• DeKalb and Jackson counties in Alabama are under a tornado watch until 10 p.m. CDT.

ROAD CONDITIONS

Please be advised that the Middle Valley area of Hamilton County is dealing with the following issues due to the severe weather:

• Wires down N. Prairie at Hensley

• Wires and trees down 8100 block of Hale Road at Central Drive

• Tree down 200 block of Hale Road at Central Drive

• Tree down 1700 block of Hidden Harbor Road

• Wires down Daisy Dallas and Dallas Lake Road

AT A GLANCE

In eastern Tennessee: Possibility of severe thunderstorms again this afternoon or tonight. Periods of heavy rainfall may linger into Wednesday and could extend the threat of flooding or flash flooding.

In Northwest Georgia: Flood watch in effect until Wednesday night. Widespread rainfall amounts of 3 to 5 inches expected, with isolated flash flooding possible. Minor to moderate flooding of some of the larger creeks and rivers is likely. Isolated long-track tornadoes possible late this afternoon into evening.

Sources: National Weather Service offices in Morristown, Tenn., and Peachtree City, Ga.

SCHOOL STATUS

Tennessee:

Hamilton County Schools and Cleveland City Schools will be on a two-hour delay Tuesday morning because of weather. School Age Child Care will be closed in the morning. Orange Grove Center and Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy are also on a two-hour delay Tuesday.

As a precautionary measure, T-Cap testing slated to begin on Tuesday will be delayed until Wednesday. The regular testing schedule will begin on Wednesday.

Georgia:

Chickamauga City Schools, Catoosa, Dade, Walker and Whitfield county schools will be on a two-hour delay Tuesday morning because of weather.

If school is delayed or cancelled for tomorrow we will inform you this evening or in the morning.

THE DIFFERENCE

A tornado watch means there is a possibility of tornadoes. A tornado warning means a tornado has already been detected.

SHARE YOUR PHOTOS AND VIDEO

If you see high waters or weather damage, email your photo and information to webeditor@timesfreepress.com

POWER OUTAGES

As lines of storms thrashed Chattanooga on Monday evening, power outages spiked at 11:30 p.m. to nearly 1,400 customers without electricity, including 800 homes in Soddy-Daisy, according to city-owned utility EPB.

"Most of the problems are in the Soddy-Daisy area, Hixson and East Brainerd," said John Pless, public relations coordinator for EPB. "We have many crews working to restore everyone as quickly as possible."

Earlier in the evening, the number of power outages briefly hit 2,200, before the utility's Smart Grid restored electricity for many of those affected, Pless said.

Additional storms are expected throughout the evening, potentially keeping EPB crews busy for some time.

Early this afternoon, the North Georgia Electric Membership Corp. said its crews are working to restore power to about 150 members in Catoosa, Walker, Murray and Whitfield counties who were enduring outages as of noon.

Ongoing rain and winds could cause more outages, according to the release.

As of about 5:30, North Georgia EMC had about 2,000 of its members without power from the storms.

A majority of them were in Whitfield, Walker and Catoosa counties with scattered outages in Chattooga, Gordon, Floyd and Murray counties.

Crews will remain on duty until all power is restored, North Georgia EMC said, adding that customers can report outages on its mobile app.

IN CASE YOU LOSE POWER

• Download the Times Free Press app to your phone for urgent weather alerts

• Follow @TimesFreePress on Twitter for minute-by-minute details

SAFETY TIPS

• Turn around; don’t drown. Avoid driving into water-covered roadways. Water can hide damaged roads and carry vehicles off roadways.

• Have multiple methods to receive weather warnings. Use a weather radio, a cell phone with wireless emergency alerts, and radio/TV warnings from over—the –air broadcasts to stay informed.

• Have a plan to respond to urgent weather situations at your location.

• In a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately in the lowest level available. Storm shelters, basements or interior walls with no windows are best. Do not stay in a mobile home or trailer; those are not safe in high-winds events.

Source: Tennessee Emergency Management Agency

Update: The National Weather Service continues to provide a hazardous weather outlook for the greater Chattanooga area, noting the potential for severe storms and perhaps even tornadoes tonight and through tomorrow.

The NWS says a flood watch continues in the Chattanooga area through 8 a.m. Wednesday.

NWS had a tornado watch, which covered 89 Georgia counties and included such cities as Dalton, Ga., in effect through much of the morning. A flood watch lasts until Thursday at 2 a.m. for communities like Dalton.

In meantime, Amy Maxwell of Hamilton County Emergency Services reported she had not had any reports of flooding in the county though there were periodic ones on trees and power lines down.

Earlier story:

A hazardous weather outlook points to possible severe storms and isolated tornadoes through Wednesday in Dalton, for example.

A severe thunderstorm swept across Hamilton County on Monday causing widespread damage and leading the National Weather Service to put the area under a tornado warning.

No injuries were reported in the Chattanooga area, but in North Alabama, Limestone County Emergency Director Rita White said the coroner’s office had confirmed two deaths in a twister that caused extensive damage west of Athens.

White said still more victims might be trapped in the wreckage of damaged buildings, but rescuers can’t reach some areas because of downed power lines. Separately, Limestone Commissioner Bill Latimer said he has reports from a worker of at least four deaths in the county.

The warning in Hamilton County expired about 10:30 p.m., but the Chattanooga and North Georgia areas were under a tornado watch until 1 a.m., and National Weather Service officials warned that the area today could see severe thunderstorms heavy rainfall, hail and flash flooding that might linger into Wednesday.

Power outages Monday were concentrated in Soddy-Daisy and Hixson, with the majority located in Soddy-Daisy, according to EPB’s live data.

In Lakesite, authorities responded to a report of a tree fallen on a house at 10:18 p.m.

A police officer in the area reported to dispatch that power lines were down near that location.

No tornado was confirmed in Hamilton County.

To the north, another tornado warning was in effect for parts of Bledsoe County and Rhea County at 10:23 until 10:45 as the front moved away.

Some storm damage and power outages were reported late Monday in Franklin County, Tenn. Emergency management personnel there reported 491 homes without power and some car wrecks. Several other strong thunderstorms also were reported in the area.

Dade County, Ga., dispatchers reported no injuries or major damage after the area was placed under a tornado warning at 9:30 p.m.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has declared a state of emergency in response to a severe weather system that crossed the state, and several deaths were reported.

Bentley said in a statement Monday evening that the declaration covers every county in Alabama.

Meanwhile, Northwest Georgia was at risk for strong, long-track tornadoes again today, Weather Service officials predicted.

“We are very concerned,” said Trisha Palmer, a meteorologist for the Peachtree City, Ga., office of the National Weather Service. “There’s potential for an isolated, strong, long-track tornado.”

Residents need to be ready to take cover, she said.

“They need to know where their safe place is,” Palmer said.

Even if the storm lost momentum overnight, WRCB-TV Channel 3 chief meteorologist Paul Barys said it could pick up steam today.

“It could re-form again,” Barys said.

Public agencies around the region braced for the bad weather.

Hamilton County Schools canceled afterschool activities Monday. Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program testing slated to begin today will be delayed until Wednesday when the regular testing schedule will begin.

Chattanooga’s Deputy Administrator of Public Works Justin Holland said city employees were ready to use chainsaws and heavy equipment to move downed trees from roads.

“Crews have been preparing throughout the day,” Holland said, adding. “We have a watch list of places that typically flood during flash-flood events.”

EPB was closely watching the weather to see if extra crews would be needed to fix downed power lines, spokesman John Pless said.

Walker County, Ga., is so prone to flash flooding that its emergency services department, which includes firefighting, has four shallow-draft boats with extra-long propellers it can use in floodwater.

“We have some areas that flood, particularly Chickamauga,” Fire Chief Randy Camp said. “Sometimes [flooding] makes it into an island. Lee-Clarkson Road sometimes is the only way in and out.”

Camp planned to have an extra firetruck in service Monday night.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has enough storage in its reservoirs to handle the downpour, TVA spokesman Travis Brickey said.

“We have plenty of storage,” Brickey said. “Any kind of rain that falls, we have plenty of room to store that water.”

In fact, some of TVA’s reservoirs, including Norris, Cherokee and South Holston, could use the water, Brickey said.

“We need the rain,” he said. “We depend on Mother Nature to supply that water.”

Until this weekend’s storm struck Arkansas and Oklahoma, 2014 had set a record for the fewest number of tornadoes — 20 ranked EF1 or stronger, which have wind speeds between 86 and 110 mph — in the past 62 years of record-keeping. The first tornado death of the year occurred when an 11-month-old boy was pronounced dead Sunday after being injured in a tornado in eastern North Carolina.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

AP Interactive: Spring tornadoes
about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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