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Recap of damaging storms from Tuesday night across Marion County (GALLERY and BLOG)

VALLEY ALERT WX SMALLThe storms that rolled through March 21st, 2017 will not likely be forgotten by many any time soon. Hundreds of trees were downed and numerous power poles were snapped causing extensive power issues. There was some sporadic structural damage from trees falling on homes or roofs being damaged from the strong winds. Times like these folks see the widespread damage and wonder if maybe it were a tornado. Often times the mindset is that only a tornado can cause such damage

The aforementioned thoughts are not uncommon after a damaging severe weather event. Tornadoes are certainly an entity that gets publicized a lot when related to storm-related damage. However, many times folks are left confused with lots of questions when learning no tornado actually occurred. As a meteorologist (specializing and observing hurricanes), I can safely say straight-line wind damage can often be just as damaging and dangerous as a tornado.

The difference is mostly within the warnings themselves. People hear Tornado Warning and react very differently. A much higher number of people will react to such warnings and take action (hopefully). However, when a Severe Thunderstorm Warning is issued it is viewed much differently. This is because Severe Thunderstorm Warnings are more frequent and cover more than just one variable (wind and hail). It comes as no surprise because wind and hail are much MUCH more frequently occurring than tornadoes.

Here’s a photo gallery and videos showing some of the damage across the area from Tuesday night, with photos sent in by our readers here at MarionCountyMessenger.com on Facebook and Twitter:

Tree almost uprooted in the New Hope area...
« 1 of 13 »

Clearly, some of what our readers were seeing — or the results of the storms they saw were alarming in the amount of damage they brought with them from just the wind. Easy to see how often the misconception of a ‘tornado’ could be thought up in cases where it was just a really severe thunderstorm.

So, how do we act during Severe Thunderstorm Warnings? Well, it varies from person to person, but the overwhelming consensus is “business as usual”…until it’s no longer business as usual such as last evening. The National Weather Service has taken steps in highlighting differences between your “marginally” severe storms and your “high impact” severe storms. This is an area that becomes tricky and confusing to much of the general public. Why? Because both instances get the same type of warning. Where the National Weather Service is attempting to highlight the differences is often not seen by the general public. For example, below is the warning text from the NWS Forecast Office in Morristown from March 21st event.



Severe Thunderstorm Warning

National Weather Service Morristown TN

521 PM CDT TUE MAR 21 2017


The National Weather Service in Morristown has issued a


* Severe Thunderstorm Warning for…

Marion County in eastern Tennessee…


* Until 615 PM CDT


* At 520 PM CDT, severe thunderstorms were located along a line

extending from 6 miles south of Manchester to 9 miles southwest of

Cowan to 8 miles south of Huntland, moving east at 45 mph.


HAZARD…70 mph wind gusts and quarter size hail.


SOURCE…Radar indicated.


IMPACT…Hail damage to vehicles is expected. Expect considerable

tree damage. Wind damage is also likely to mobile homes,

roofs, and outbuildings.


* Locations impacted include…

Jasper, South Pittsburg, Whitwell, Kimball, Monteagle, Powells

Crossroads, Orme, Chimneys S.p., Martin Springs, Fiery Gizzard

S.p., Foster Falls S.p., Griffith Creek, Haletown (guild), Hicks

Gap S.p., Sequatchie Cave, New Hope and Lone Oak.




For your protection move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a





LAT…LON 3524 8585 3524 8582 3522 8574 3524 8569

3529 8571 3532 8556 3527 8549 3526 8544

3522 8540 3518 8539 3511 8539 3509 8536

3505 8538 3504 8541 3500 8543 3498 8548

3499 8586 3522 8586 3522 8587

TIME…MOT…LOC 2220Z 289DEG 41KT 3538 8609 3505 8611 3493 8626







We bolded the more important features that typically do NOT show up in your standard (or generic) Severe Thunderstorm Warning. Now take a look at a standard warning for comparison.


Severe Thunderstorm Warning

National Weather Service Morristown TN

131 AM EST SAT FEB 25 2017


The National Weather Service in Morristown has issued a


* Severe Thunderstorm Warning for…

Southeastern Marion County in eastern Tennessee…

Southern Hamilton County in eastern Tennessee…


* Until 215 AM EST/115 AM CST/


* At 130 AM EST/1230 AM CST/, severe thunderstorms were located along

a line extending from near Fairmount to 6 miles south of Jasper,

moving east at 30 mph.


HAZARD…60 mph wind gusts and quarter size hail.


SOURCE…Radar indicated.


IMPACT…Hail damage to vehicles is expected. Expect wind damage

to roofs, siding, and trees.


* Locations impacted include…

Chattanooga, Soddy-Daisy, Signal Mountain, Walden, Lakesite,

Ridgeside, Fairmount, Harrison, Red Bank, Lookout Mountain,

Haletown (guild), East Ridge, Hicks Gap S.p., Middle Valley,

Falling Water, Harrison Bay S.p., Shady Grove, Lone Oak, North

Chickamauga Creek Gorge and Mowbray Mountain.




For your protection move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a





LAT…LON 3499 8562 3520 8542 3521 8539 3517 8540

3515 8539 3522 8533 3528 8498 3499 8519

3498 8550

TIME…MOT…LOC 0630Z 253DEG 27KT 3519 8542 3497 8559





So, as you can see the NWS boosted wind values with the 1st higher impact warning example versus the 2nd standard warning example. Although this may not mean much of a difference, the NWS was confident that this storm was packing more of a punch than your standard Severe Thunderstorm Warning. Again, the problem is how many folks actually see this? You will get this information if 1) you get your warnings from NOAA Weather Radio or 2) you know where to look/specifically looking for these details. A group of individuals that do get this information would be the media. Many times it’s the media that bears the weight of responsibility to get the word out. You can often read these details scrolling across the bottom of your TV screen or in the right circumstances a live update could highlight this information. Though a live update is much more difficult to find during a Severe Wind event versus a Tornado event.

Still, issues remain. Again much of the general public will see “Severe Thunderstorm Warning” and breathe a sigh a relief it’s not a tornado warning, again because the mindset is Tornadoes are damaging and a Severe Thunderstorm is just a Thunderstorm. As we have seen this time and in times past, severe thunderstorms can in fact be destructive and dangerous. Focus on the statement from above “For your protection move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a building.” This statement is what you’d typically hear for tornadoes too, right? Well, there is a point to be made. If you’re upstairs or even sitting in your living room a fallen tree, even for a marginally severe storm, can come crashing through your home causes not only damage, but can also be life threatening.

The point to be made is not all Severe Thunderstorms are equal as many of us see them. There are clues out there, which help us all identify the severity of such warnings, but unfortunately many don’t recognize these clues. That is why it is up to the media such as MarionCountyMessenger.com to recognize these clues and articulate the dangers. Here’s the exact post from MarionCountyMessenger.com that went out on Facebook and Twitter shortly after the warning was issued for March 21st.

Warning Issue

This sample really tries to hammer the message that widespread severe weather was expected. The warning from the NWS covered ALL of Marion County and the wording such as “Damaging” and “Seek shelter” were used to convey the seriousness of the situation. At the point, action then falls on the shoulders of those impacted (all 25,000+ in Marion County). Thankfully, there were no injuries reported from this storm and we’d like to think many saw the warning and took actions. However, it’s difficult to know whether or not the general populace viewed this warning differently than warnings past. The key point is to take all warnings seriously and know the risks. Also, it’s very important to familiarize yourself with the difference in watches and warnings (still, when talking to folks it becomes readily apparent that many do not understand the difference) and also know where you are located on a map. A recent study showed that roughly 60% of residents in a neighboring state can’t locate their home county or name their surrounding counties. This is a troubling find for the weather business as much of what we do involves maps.

To conclude, the weather here in the Sequatchie Valley and Cumberland Plateau is interesting. We are in a very rare location that can get tornadoes and severe weather at any point during the year. It’s crucial to have a plan and be ready to act, sometimes with little time. Have multiple sources of receiving weather watches and warnings, and again know the difference (watch means severe weather favorable…warning means take action now). As much as we’d like to be able to knock on everyone’s door and say “a bad storm is coming” like a meteorologist Paul Revere of sorts, that’s simply not possible. It is up to you to protect yourself and loved one’s and we trust you to do the right thing during times of severe weather. Tennessee has more severe weather fatalities than any other state. We don’t want you contributing to that statistic! Stay safe!

-MarionCountyMessenger.com Weather Team

P.S. A special thanks goes out to our local Emergency Managers (Steve Lamb in Marion County), SVEC and EPB crews, and Local Law Enforcement for their long hours of helping our area return to normal after the storms and making sure we, as a community, are safe.

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