Tornadoes confirmed in Tennessee last week

Tornadoes confirmed in Tennessee last week

February 26th, 2014 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

Four 53-foot semi trailers, toppled by high winds of a tornadic storm, lay on the lawn early Friday morning outside the Jet Polymer Recycling business in Fort Payne, Ala.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

A line of storms that produced a strong EF2 tornado early Friday in Northeast Alabama also produced EF1 tornadoes in Coffee and Franklin counties in Tennessee the night before, underlining the importance of paying attention to weather watches and warnings, officials say.

In Franklin County, a twister touched down late Thursday west of Winchester and left a trail of damage northeast across Tims Ford Lake, officials said.

The damage path "starts at Riley Lane and goes over Highway 50 and hits a barn there and then goes across the lake to Bible Crossing and Old Estill Springs Road," Sheriff Tim Fuller said Tuesday.

"We had quite a few light poles that were at a 45-degree angle," Fuller said of damage within Winchester, Tenn.'s city limits.

Coffee County Homeland Security deputy director Daryl Welch said the same line of storms took out trees, a couple of billboards near Interstate 24 and a couple of grain silos near U.S. Highway 41 and Betsy Willis Road north of Pelham near the Grundy County line.

While little structural damage resulted from the storm, winds were estimated at 90 mph, Welch said.

"It only tracked a little over a mile," he said. "But we didn't know about it. Nobody even called the damage in."

Manchester fire Chief Georgia DeShields learned of the damage from a Facebook post, Welch said. "He called us and told us."

National Weather Service warning coordinator meteorologist Dave Nadler said the storms that hit the area last week are a good wake-up call for people as severe weather season looms larger.

If last week's Severe Weather Awareness Week in Tennessee and Alabama didn't get residents' attention, the quick-hit storms from last week should, Nadler said.

"The damaging storms that struck Franklin County were "very short-track, short-lived tornadoes," Nadler said.

"We issued severe thunderstorm warnings with a tornado watch," he said. "When severe thunderstorm warnings are issued and there's a tornado watch in effect, you should take those very, very seriously because chances are there could be tornadoes embedded in the line that we never see."

Graphic of tornado damage in Middle Tennessee.

Photo by Laura McNutt/Times Free Press.

Weather radars sweep every five minutes, and short-lived tornadoes can touch down and vanish before the next radar sweep, he said.

"The EF2 in Fort Payne [Ala.] was only on the ground for three minutes," Nadler said.

Nadler said that, while tornadoes can strike throughout the year, the most tornado-prone months of March, April and May are just ahead and people should be ready to take shelter when watches and warnings are issued.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.