More details as they develop online and in Friday's News Sentinel.
EF 3 TORNADO HITS GREENBACK
BY: PAT HUNTER
An EF3 Tornado moved through the community of Greenback. This has been confirmed by the National Weather Service.
The path of destruction and debris covers a one third mile path.
An EF3 is the third strongest category on the scale, which can provide severe damage including "Roofs and some walls torn off well-constructed houses;
trains overturned; most trees in forest uprooted; heavy cars lifted off the ground and thrown."
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MORRISTOWN TN
930 PM EDT THU MAR 24 2011
...AN EF-3 TORNADO WAS DETERMINED FROM STORM SURVEY COMPLETED IN LOUDON AND BLOUNT COUNTIES IN EAST TENNESSEE...
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVES COMPLETED A STORM SURVEY INVOLVING THE TORNADO THAT MOVED THROUGH SOUTHEAST LOUDON COUNTY AND INTO SOUTHWEST BLOUNT COUNTY. THE TORNADO INITIALLY TOUCHED DOWN NEAR GREENBACK TENNESSEE...AND PRODUCED EF-1 TORNADO DAMAGE WITH MAXIMUM WIND SPEEDS OF 90 MPH AND A PATH WIDTH OF 20 YARDS. THE TORNADO CONTINUED TO MOVE NORTHEAST AND ACROSS HIGHWAY 95 AND 411 INTO BLOUNT COUNTY...WHERE IT INCREASED IN INTENSITY TO AN EF-2 TORNADO WITH MAXIMUM WIND SPEEDS AT 120 MPH AND A PATH WIDTH OF 125 YARDS.
THE TORNADO EXTENSIVELY INCREASED ITS PATH WIDTH TO A MAXIMUM OF 500 YARDS AT ITS PEAK...WITH MAXIMUM WINDS INCREASING TO AN EF-3 WITH 140 MPH WINDS OCCURRING. THE TORNADO CONTINUED ITS PATH AND FINALLY DISSIPATED IN SOUTHWEST BLOUNT COUNTY WITH MAXIMUM WINDS AT 100 MPH...AND AN EF-1 RATING NOTED.
THE PATH LENGTH OF THE TORNADO WAS A CONTINUOUS 4.5 MILES BEFORE IT DISSIPATED.
STORM SURVEY COMPLETED BY:
TIM TROUTMAN...WARNING COORDINATION METEOROLOGIST
GEORGE MATHEWS...METEOROLOGIST IN CHARGE
IN THE NEWS
By News Sentinel staff
Originally published 07:30 a.m., March 24, 2011
Updated 05:27 p.m., March 24, 2011
GREENBACK - Damage sustained during Wednesday night's storm indicates a "strong EF3" tornado likely struck the Greenback community, according to a National Weather Service representative surveying the damage this afternoon.
As he inspected the debris of what was a three-story home in the Ashbrook subdivision in Blount County this afternoon, NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Tim Troutman estimated the tornado had a maximum wind speed of 160 mph.
"It completely demolished this house," said Troutman, standing amid a swath of destruction some 125 yards wide.
The chief of the Greenback Volunteer Fire Department said 26 homes sustained damage ranging from 50 percent to demolished as a result of Wednesday's storm.
"I'm talking not even a 2-by-4 standing," Ronnie Lett said this afternoon.
Lett said "from Greenback to Blount County" the storm left a path of devastation "one-half mile wide and three and one-half-miles long."
Authorities said injuries were limited and there were no fatalities. A small part of Blount and Loudon counties appeared to suffer the worst damage.
Troutman's assessment only confirmed what Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider suspected when he saw the wreckage.
"There's no doubt in my mind it was a tornado," the sheriff said today after grabbing a couple hours of sleep. "There's nothing else that could cause this."
Guider said winds left "several barns and a couple houses heavily damaged" in Loudon County. He also saw "one half of a silo slung 200-300 yards."
Despite those sights, the sheriff said the county "dodged a bullet out here in Greenback."
Guider said his officers teamed with emergency medical personnel and firefighters to search door to door to assure there are no casualties.
The Knox County Sheriff's Office went aloft in a helicopter this morning to Greenback School so officials could survey the damage.
The school, which consists of grades K-12, was closed today.
Loudon County School Board representative Lisa Russell said first indications are the decades-old school survived Wednesday night's high winds despite the heavy damage only a few blocks away. Russell said she spoke with firemen who conducted a brief inspection.
The school will remain closed until a more thorough inspection can be completed.
Russell said she was driving back to her home when the storm hit. Her home was not damaged but houses within a half-mile were damaged.
According to Jason Vance, assistant Loudon County schools director, the Greenback school is without power but will probably be open Friday. Vance said the biggest problem the school currently faces is spoiled food because refrigeration went out with the power.
Others in Blount and Loudon counties today were marveling at the storm's power and their own good luck.
Pastor David Cooper had finished conducting a funeral Wednesday night and was at a Jefferson City McDonalds watching on TV as violent weather struck Blount County. He later learned it had wiped away his three-story house in Blount County like it was a collection of bread crumbs.
Cooper's home on Ashbrook Lane appeared to take a direct hit, turning the house and his five-car garage into a wasteland.
Cooper, pastor of New Life Ministries Christian Center, on US Highway 411, also "restores old cars for a living."
A couple of classics were among the casualties as his garage was demolished by high wind.
"I believe God had us where he wanted us to be," Cooper said, adding that no members of his family were home when the storm struck either. "If we had been here, there would have been no escape."
Greenback Mayor Tom Peeler was standing in his front yard talking on the radio with Lett when the tornado struck. Lett had just learned about the tornado warning coming their way.
"I kept hearing this roar like a train coming from back over by the school," Peeler said. "Then all of a sudden came the darndest rain you ever saw in your life. I had to run back inside the house."
The winds and rain lasted only about 10 minutes, Peeler said. "Not long after, the skies were clear and you could see the stars."
Only one home in Greenback was completely destroyed, others suffered various degrees of damage. One of the biggest problems will be the fact that many of the resident are not insured for storm damage, he said.
Along U.S. Highway 411, as he surveyed damage at his father's home, John Dixon was struck by the kind and bulk of debris churned up by Wednesday's system.
It's big this time, he said.
"It's cars, boat trailers, trailers and electrical transformers from the power lines," the 46-year-old Greenback man said.
"It looks like a war zone, like a bomb hit. There's debris everywhere."
A 50-foot trailer on the property in the 5900 block of Highway 411 near the Blount County line was tossed across the road.
"The frame is on the other side of the highway," Dixon said. "The rest of it must be in North Carolina."
Dixon said the man who rents the trailer from his father was at work when the storm hit.
Dixon was asleep at his home about one-quarter mile from his father's property when the storm struck about 10 p.m., knocking out his electrical service.
"I could hear it coming at us," he said. "I lived in Texas, so I've heard tornadoes before and this was a strong tornado."
The winds, Dixon said, sounded "like a freight train coming through."
Dixon said he saw a 100-yard-wide swath of damage nearly 4 miles long when the sun rose this morning.
At his father's rental home, boats from Viper Customs across Highway 411 were tossed around.
"There's 25-foot-long boat trailers stacked up and tangled that look like a kid was playing with matchbox toys," Dixon said.
A woman in his father's rental home was tossed around when the winds shoved the single-story, wood-frame home about 20-feet off its foundation. The woman was not injured although the roof was ripped off and the rear of the home was removed by the winds.
Dixon said crews from Fort Loudon Electric were on the scene replacing power lines that had been ripped from poles.
Officials this morning closed State Route 95 to inspect the wind-driven damage.
A Loudon County E-911 dispatcher said there were power outages after the storm struck about 10 p.m., but crews were restoring service this morning.
Officials closed one northbound lane of U. S. Highway 411 in the area. Both southbound lanes are open.
The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning earlier Wednesday for Loudon, Blount, Monroe and Sevier counties. A tornado watch remained in effect until 2 a.m. today for areas south and east of Knoxville.
More details as they develop online and in Friday's News Sentinel.