published Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Tornado that killed 2 reached 160 mph


Detailed information about the exact paths that tornadoes took on April 28-29 is available at by clicking on "Updated Storm Surveys from April 28th tornadoes" at the top of the Web page.

  • photo
    Tammy Smith looks to salvage what she can from her mother’s pulverized home as she and others work Tuesday to clean up damage from overnight storms that destroyed several houses near Boaz in DeKalb County, Ala.
    Photo by John Rawlston.
    enlarge photo

It's official.

Tornadoes — not straight-line winds or powerful downdrafts called microbursts — struck the region on the night of April 28-29, according to on-the-ground surveys by National Weather Service experts. The overnight storms caused two deaths and destroyed a number of homes and buildings in Tennessee and Alabama.

"We look at patterns of debris and damage. Trees, if they're lying in different directions, that's one indication," said senior meteorologist Andy Kula of the Weather Service's Huntsville, Ala., office.

The strongest tornado was one in Lincoln County, Tenn., that claimed the lives of husband and wife John and Karen Prince, who died when their mobile home was blown away south of Fayetteville.

That tornado had a peak wind speed of 160 mph, which ranks as 3 on the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale, the weather service determined. Its path was 500 yards wide and 20 miles long.

The second-strongest twister in the region was a 155 mph EF3 tornado that carved a path up to 600 yards wide through nine miles of Etowah and DeKalb counties in Alabama, destroying homes in places such as the Aroney community near Boaz.

The closest tornado to Chattanooga was an EF1 storm with a maximum wind speed of 105 mph that touched down just east of Cohutta, Ga., and tracked for a half mile into southern Bradley County, Tenn., along Hughes Lake Road, where a home was damaged.

"There was a house that was shifted off of its foundation," said Sam Roberts, a meteorologist with the Weather Service's Morristown, Tenn. office.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at or or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education 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.

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