While counties where last week's tornadoes claimed lives got most of the attention, other Tennessee communities west of Chattanooga were also hit hard by the storms and are recovering.
An EF-2 tornado packing winds between 111 and 135 mph clipped the north end of Marion County, raking a 12-mile-long northeasterly path through Sequatchie County around 11 p.m. on Nov. 29. It leveled houses, barns and mobile homes as it tore its way to the top of Lewis Chapel Mountain, officials said.
Marion County Emergency Management Director Steve Lamb said Road Superintendent Jim Hawk's poultry operation was first in line as the tornado touched down. It cut a half-mile swath that destroyed Hawk's chicken houses before unleashing its fury on his fellow farmers and residents to the north.
Lamb said damage estimates for the half-mile track in Marion stand at just under $400,000. Damage estimates elsewhere won't be known for a while, officials said.
"It started with a double-wide mobile home in our county," Sequatchie County EMA Director Winfred Smith said. That home stood just north of the Sequatchie-Marion county line.
"We had four people in that double-wide. They basically rode it out," he said. "Everybody got out. A woman was hollering for help; we could hear her. She was out in the debris under a couple of mattresses."
Fortunately, that storm victim and two others sustained only minor injuries, Smith said.
James Condra's farm south of Dunlap was in the path of the storm that bore down on his family after a weather alert on his cellphone notified him of a tornado warning.
"I laid there in bed for a few more minutes, getting a little bit sleepy, but I was thinking about, 'What if we did have a tornado? Where would we go? What would we do?'" Condra said.
Then "I heard a sound like a big truck in the distance and I thought maybe one of the electric coops were coming in one of their trucks and I thought I might have to get out of bed and talk to somebody," he said. He walked to a window to look out.
But the "truck" sound got much louder and closer.
"I pulled the curtains open and a tree limb the size of my head went by the window. That's when I knew," Condra said. He called to his wife, ran through the house and warned his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren to "get up, get up, it's a tornado." Condra said he took maybe 12 steps before it hit, heavily damaging his house, farm buildings and uprooting the massive, 130-year-old cedar trees surrounding his home.
"The floor and ground just shook and there were some loud noises and then it was quiet. We have a metal roof. We could only hear the rain after that," he said.
Others escaped death as their homes were struck including one fellow farmer who was blown out of his house and into a field, Condra said. That victim is recovering from his injuries.
National Weather Service officials visiting the storm-stricken areas last Wednesday said it appeared the storm had winds up to 130 mph, just a little under the EF-3 level, Smith said.
He said five homes, two mobile homes and six barns were destroyed. Major damage was done to another four houses, a mobile home, New Hope Cumberland Presbyterian Church and five barns.
A tractor at the Blevins family farm "was just bent in half," Smith said. The storm obliterated another nearby barn but left the hay inside behind. He said nine more homes and five other mobile homes suffered light storm damage.
The tornado's path ranged from 300 to 350 feet wide as it ripped northward and up the side of Walden's Ridge at Lewis Chapel Mountain where some of the other structures in Sequatchie were hit, Smith said.
According to the National Weather Service's office in Nashville, two funnel clouds — both rated EF-1s — also touched down Nov. 29 in Coffee County, one west of Tullahoma just after 9 p.m. CST and another southeast of Manchester about 20 minutes later. Both storms packed winds that peaked at around 105 mph.
Both storms had a path that stretched eight miles long.
One injury was sustained in the Tullahoma storm when a tree fell onto a car, according to the weather service.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569.