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Severe Weather Awareness Week in Tennessee marks the start of tornado season

Recent storms across the eastern half of the country caused damage, chaos, and took the lives of five people in Arkansas, Kentucky, and Michigan. That same outbreak was resposible for an EF-2 tornado which hit Clarksville, Tenn., destroying several homes and vehicles.

This all stands as a reminder that tornado season is beginning in our part of the country and we should all be weather aware — not just during tornado season, but all year long since a tornado can happen at any time of the year. In fact, Tennessee has two torando seasons. The state has seen some fairly destructive torados between October and December as fall passes to winter; however, it’s spring and summertime that are the most notorious for scattered and severe thunderstorms that can “spin up” a tornado with little to no advance notice.

“Severe weather can occur at any time in Tennessee,” says Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) Director Patrick Sheehan. “TEMA wants Tennesseans and our state’s visitors to understand severe weather hazards, and prepare themselves and their loved ones to receive and understand warnings, and get to safety, when severe weather threatens.”

February 25th – March 3rd is Tennessee Severe Weather Week, when residents should take time to review their storm knowledge and make sure they are prepared for severe weather should it impact them.

According to the NOAA / National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, prevention and practice before the storm will help increase your chance of surviving a tornado. At home, have a family tornado plan in place, based on the kind of dwelling you live in and other safety tips. Know where you can take shelter in a matter of seconds, and practice a family tornado drill at least once a year. Have a pre-determined place to meet after a disaster. Flying debris is the greatest danger in tornadoes; so store protective coverings (e.g., mattress, sleeping bags, thick blankets, etc) in or next to your shelter space, ready to use on a few seconds’ notice.

When a tornado watch is issued, think about the drill and check to make sure all your safety supplies are handy. Turn on local TV, radio or NOAA Weather Radio or another trusted source and stay alert for warnings. Forget about the old notion of opening windows to equalize pressure; the tornado will blast open the windows for you! Getting to your safe place in the event that watch turns to a warning should be your only concern!

If you shop frequently at certain stores, learn where their bathrooms, storage rooms, or other interior shelter areas are located and the shortest ways to get there. These locations should be away from windows and exterior walls as much as possible.  All administrators of schools, shopping centers, nursing homes, hospitals, mobile home communities and offices should have a tornado safety plan in place, with easy-to-read signs posted to direct everyone to a safe, nearby shelter area. Schools and office building managers should regularly run well-coordinated drills. Also, If you are planning to build a house, officials say your should strongly consider building an underground tornado shelter or an interior “safe room”.

According to the NOAA/NWS Storm Predicition Center’s website, here’s some tips on safe places to seek shelter depending on your location during a storm:

In a house with a basement: Avoid windows. Get in the basement and under some kind of sturdy protection (heavy table or work bench), or cover yourself with a mattress or sleeping bag. Know where very heavy objects rest on the floor above (pianos, refrigerators, waterbeds, etc.) and do not go under them. They may fall down through a weakened floor and crush you. Head protection, such as a helmet, can boost survivability also.

In a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment: Avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows. Crouch as low as possible to the floor, facing down; and cover your head with your hands. A bath tub may offer a shell of partial protection. Even in an interior room, you should cover yourself with some sort of thick padding (mattress, blankets, etc.), to protect against falling debris in case the roof and ceiling fail. A helmet can offer some protection against head injury.

In a mobile home: Get out! Even if your home is tied down, it is not as safe as an underground shelter or permanent, sturdy building. Go to one of those shelters, or to a nearby permanent structure, using your tornado evacuation plan. Most tornadoes can destroy even tied-down mobile homes; and it is best not to play the low odds that yours will make it. This mobile-home safety video from the State of Missouri may be useful in developing your plan.

In an office building, hospital, nursing home or skyscraper: Go directly to an enclosed, windowless area in the center of the building — away from glass and on the lowest floor possible. Then, crouch down and cover your head. Interior stairwells are usually good places to take shelter, and if not crowded, allow you to get to a lower level quickly. Stay off the elevators; you could be trapped in them if the power is lost.

At school: Follow the drill! Go to the interior hall or windowless room in an orderly way as you are told. Crouch low, head down, and protect the back of your head with your arms. Stay away from windows and large open rooms like gyms and auditoriums.

In a car or truck: Vehicles are extremely risky in a tornado. There is no safe option when caught in a tornado in a car, just slightly less-dangerous ones. If the tornado is visible, far away, and the traffic is light, you may be able to drive out of its path by moving at right angles to the tornado. Seek shelter in a sturdy building, or underground if possible. If you are caught by extreme winds or flying debris, park the car as quickly and safely as possible — out of the traffic lanes. Stay in the car with the seat belt on. Put your head down below the windows; cover your head with your hands and a blanket, coat, or other cushion if possible. If you can safely get noticeably lower than the level of the roadway,leave your car and lie in that area, covering your head with your hands. Avoid seeking shelter under bridges, which can create deadly traffic hazards while offering little protection against flying debris.

In the open outdoors: If possible, seek shelter in a sturdy building. If not, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado.

In a shopping mall or large store: Do not panic. Watch for others. Move as quickly as possible to an interior bathroom, storage room or other small enclosed area, away from windows.

In a church or theater: Do not panic. If possible, move quickly but orderly to an interior bathroom or hallway, away from windows. Crouch face-down and protect your head with your arms. If there is no time to do that, get under the seats or pews, protecting your head with your arms or hands.

After a tornado, keep your family together and wait for emergency personnel to arrive. Carefully render aid to those who are injured. Stay away from power lines and puddles with wires in them; they may still be carrying electricity! Watch your step to avoid broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects. Stay out of any heavily damaged houses or buildings; they could collapse at any time. Do not use matches or lighters, in case of leaking natural gas pipes or fuel tanks nearby. Remain calm and alert, and listen for information and instructions from emergency crews or local officials. If you have a smartphone or camera available (or can borrow a neighbor’s), photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim. And even if you escape with only minor damage, do what you can to prevent further damage to your property once you’re safe (i.e. – putting a tarp on a damaged roof, etc.), as insurance companies may not cover any additional damage that occurs after the storm.



The last noteable tornado to strike Marion County was an EF-2 that touched down in the Whitwell area in the early morning hours of November 30th, 2016, causing damage to several properties at the very north end of the county before moving on to cause damage just across the county line in Sequatchie County. Here’s a gallery from our archives of that evet…


Twisted trees along East Valley Rd. near Crossroads
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Others may recall the EF-2 tornado that touched down in Kimball causing a mile-long path of damage from the Dixie-Lee Junction up Main Street damaging businesses, homes, and destroying the former building of Kimball Baptist Church while services were taking place. Thankfully, none of those in attendance at the church were injured as the building crumbled around them. The church has since rebuilt just down the road from where the former little white church once stood. Even more memorable in the minds of many around our area was April 27th, 2011 — the 2011 Super Outbreak — the largest, costliest, and one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks ever recorded, affecting the Southern, Midwestern, and Northeastern United States and leaving catastrophic destruction in its wake.

The 2011 Super Outbreak was a 3-day even across the country beginning on April 25th and concluding in the late hours of April 27th, costing an estimated $11-Million in damage across multiple states, killing 324 and injuring 2,200+ in the path of the storms. While the largest devestation was seen to our south and east across Jackson County in Alabama, Dade and Catoosa (Ringgold) Counties in Georgia, and in the Apison, Collegedale and Cleveland areas of Tennessee; Marion County didn’t escape without some small spin-ups either. Two, in fact, were recorded on that day — first at EF-1 about 1:41 PM CDT near Haletown that covered a 3-mile-long path and another near Moore Crossing to near Guild around 5:21 PM CDT later that afternoon that went 10-miles before letting up.

Thankfully, only minor property damage was reported and no injuries or deaths occured with these two storms. Just north of us in Sequatchie County that same day an EF1, EF2 and EF4 tornado touched down, with the city of Dunlap taking a hit. Damage was reported all over the county as the EF-2 and EF-4 tornados happened literally within just minutes of each other and even followed a similar path.

As part of this week’s preparedness emphasis in Tennessee, a statewide tornado drill including a statewide test of NOAA weather radios was planned for Wednesday morning by the National Weather Service; however, the drill was cancelled due to the heavy rains causing flood advisories and watches across the state and region.

Officials say despite the cancellation of the drill and test, the potential for flooding is a prime example of just how severe weather plays a big role in our day-to-day lives and they hope to convey the key message of Severe Weather Awareness Week by helping Tennesseans understand the importance of having emergency plans in place before a tornado, flood, or other threat is imminent.

“The most important preparedness tip is to stay informed to its potential,” Sheehan said. “At home, at work, or in your vehicle, have multiple ways to receive weather information and warnings: keep a battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio at home; watch TV and listen to the radio for weather updates; and. download applications that push weather information to mobile devices.”

At a minimum, emergency preparedness kits should include one gallon of water per-day, per-person, and per-pet, for three to five days. The kit should also have enough non-perishable food for each family member, and pets, for three to five days. Other items that every kit should include: flashlight, battery-powered radio, extra batteries, first aid kit, personal hygiene items, cell phone charger or solar charger, and copies of important family documents.

It is also very important that emergency kits contain extra supplies of medications, especially for those in the household with chronic health conditions.

TEMA’s mission is to coordinate preparedness, response and recovery from man-made, natural and technological hazards in a professional and efficient manner in concert with our stakeholders. Follow TEMA on: Facebook, TNDisasterInfo; Twitter, @T_E_M_A; LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/company/tnema/; Tumblr, https://t-e-m-a.tumblr.com; and, at www.tn.gov/TEMA.

For valuable information about weather preparedness for the elderly, pets, the disabled, children, and businesses during severe weather, go to the NWS website or Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website.






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