MORE STORMS COMING
Here is the five-day forecast for the Northwest Georgia region:
• Wednesday: Partly cloudy. Slight chance of rain.
• Thursday: Partly cloudy. Chance of rain or thunderstorms in the evening.
• Friday: Scattered thunderstorms during the day. High chance of rain.
• Saturday: Scattered thunderstorms during the day and early evening. High chance of rain.
• Sunday: Scattered thunderstorms in the morning, showers overnight. High chance of rain.
The tornado of Oct. 6 touched just one mile as the crow flies from Cherokee Valley Road, the site of some of the worst damage of April 27, 2011, where 12 homes were obliterated. See the map of tornados from April 27, 2011, for more detail.
Ringgold, Ga., resident Karen Worley was helping her 23-year-old daughter buckle her two young grandchildren into a minivan at 7:40 p.m. Monday, unaware that a tornado was about to sweep across her street.
As she started back toward her house, the wind picked up, and Worley grabbed onto a post on her porch so that she wouldn't be blown over. As she stood there, she saw the swing set in her yard snap and fly away.
"That's when I thought, this is worse than a wind," Worley said. "This is death."
Worley stood outside her damaged home on Morning Glory Drive in Ringgold on Tuesday morning, assessing the damage and trying to process what had happened. Her glasses were missing their left frame and arm, blown off in the wind the previous night.
That "wind" turned out to be an EF1 tornado, National Weather Service officials determined Tuesday.
Although her daughter's minivan had been pushed back several feet by the wind, everyone in the car was uninjured, as was Worley. No injuries were reported, but seven homes sustained moderate to heavy damage, Catoosa County Fire Chief Steve Quinn said.
Surveyors believe the tornado touched down at 7:40 p.m., according to Trisha Palmer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. She said winds reached up to 110 mph, although the path and width of the tornado were still undetermined Tuesday evening.
Morning Glory Drive residents said they considered themselves lucky, many of them remembering the outbreak of deadly tornadoes in 2011 that left 8 dead in Catoosa County and more than 250 buildings damaged or destroyed. That tornado tore through the landscape just a few miles away.
David Burns, another homeowner on the drive, said he helped out in the aftermath of that outbreak of tornadoes. He volunteered with his church to cut up trees and debris.
"I've been through this before, but not personally," he said.
This time around, his home sustained some "cosmetic" damage, he said.
Burns said the tornado hit out of nowhere, and he saw no warning on television. He was home with his wife and son, and he said he didn't know anything was happening until his ears started popping.
Worley also said she heard no warning before the tornado touched down.
Quinn confirmed that, saying that no warning was issued other than a severe thunderstorm warning and then a special weather statement for strong winds and hail.
"That's determined by the National Weather Service," he said.
Palmer said no warning was issued because this tornado was the result of a storm merger, and it touched down only very briefly. She said those kinds of tornadoes are very difficult to predict. She said that, since radar scans of storms take 4.5 minutes at best to update, if anything touches down during that time there's no way to get a warning out.
Three homes on Morning Glory Drive were severely damaged, Quinn said. Two of those homes had the gas shut off, and all three had electricity cut off. The owners have been evacuated.
Quinn said emergency response crews arrived on the scene at 8 p.m. Monday and then went back out Tuesday morning to assess the damage. He said his office only cleans up major debris and clears roadways. After that, cleanup is left to the home owners.
Although the homes may take a while to rebuild or repair, Worley said, she's just thankful and considers them all extremely lucky, since no one was injured.
"God was with us last night," she said. "Absolutely."
Contact staff writer Hannah Smith at email@example.com or at 423-757-6731.