In the worst tornado outbreak since 1925, the disfigured landscape, death toll, and homeless people in Dixieland continue to make headline news, as 34 are confirmed dead in Tennessee, and over 350 altogether in seven states.For 24 hours Macon Countians scanned the skies and watched the weather that dominated television stations in anticipation of what was described as a rare and powerful storm system, while one meteorologist stated, “it’s bad, it’s coming, so be prepared”. With February 5th, 2008 on everybody’s mind, most of us feared the worse, while praying we would be spared.
The line of heavy storms was relentless and Macon County received several inches of rain, along with heavy lightning, but the massive twisters, that the super cells spawned, missed Lafayette due to cooler temperatures, while they struck with unexpected speed all around us, with 137 confirmed reports of funnel clouds on the ground, with the 34 deaths in East Tennessee. Damaging winds possibly from an EF0 tornado did cause considerable damage on the Gamaliel Road outside of Red Boiling Springs.
“It is absolutely true what I have always been told about an approaching tornado,” said Patsy Burton, who lives on Gamaliel Road, along with her husband David. “It got pitch black last Wednesday and after I hollered for my husband, I could hear what sounded like an approaching freight train, as we immediately headed for the basement. We had numerous trees completely uprooted, several storage buildings destroyed and our barn was completely wiped out scattered for half a mile, but thankfully no one in our area was injured.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam requested federal assistance for four Tennessee counties following the deadly storm system, including Bradley, Greene, Hamilton and Washington, while other counties were expected to be added to the disaster declaration request after the damage assessments were completed.
In a press release issued by the governor he stated, “Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones in this emergency, and I commend the first responders who have spent many days engaged in search and rescue operations to save lives. I am confident the federal government will expedite our major disaster request so we can get to the work of helping people rebuild their lives as quickly as possible.”
According to the report Tennessee suffered 34 fatalities and more than 500 homes were destroyed or sustained major damage, and at the height of the emergency, up to 18 shelters provided essential needs for 233 people.
“We were fortunate enough to avoid any severe damage,” said Tri County Executive Vice President & General Manager, Paul Thompson, “and after restoring our system, we sent a crew and equipment to Sequachee Valley, in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, near Chattanooga. They left at 5 a.m. on Friday morning, April 29 and headed back over the weekend. The foreman of the crew was Anthony Carter and he took three 1st class linemen including Jimmy Dyer, Allen Carman, and Nathan Gregory. We were honored to be of assistance to the disaster victims and emergency workers in the hard hit areas, and offer our services to our fellow electric cooperatives.”
Macon County Emergency Management Director, Keith Scruggs stated, “We were on stand by for the duration of the storm system, but the rain cooled the atmosphere in our immediate area, which prevented the super cells from affecting us, although straight line winds and EFO tornadoes were reported in surrounding counties, according to the National Weather Service. The air will remain unstable for the next few weeks and conditions are going to be favorable for more dangerous weather situations.”
“We have been very fortunate in the last few weeks,” Scruggs added, “to have dodged any substantial damage to our area. I want to remind our citizens to not let their guard down and be aware of any unusual weather scenario’s that have the potential to turn violent, and if at all possible please buy a weather radio.”
The deadly storms did bring heartbreak to Macon County, when the Jerry Bolton family received the devastating news that three family members who lived in Alabama died in the tornadoes that swept through the south last week, as well as other members who lost everything and have no insurance. Jerry’s son, Dallas, works for the City of Lafayette, and Jeff Halliburton is taking donations to help the family during their time of need.”
If you would like to make a donation you can contact the Lafayette City Recorder, Annette Morgan, at 615-666-4570 or 615-666-2194.