Storm does damage in southern portion of Moore County
Moore County schools closed early on Tuesday for the second consecutive day as severe weather returned to Middle Tennessee just 24 hours after a tornado outbreak cut a swath through northern Alabama and parts of Lincoln and Moore counties.
Tuesday’s weather system paled, however, in comparison to the system that spawned several tornados in the southeast, including possibly three in Lincoln County and one in Moore County.
According to Moore County Sheriff’s Department investigator Mike Rainey, the sheriff’s department was out on Tuesday morning checking on damage from Monday night’s storms.
“We have some barns completely gone and some (out buildings) gone, as well as a lot of fences and trees down,” said Rainey. “All of us are out doing assessments. We’ll then get with Metro Moore County EMA director Jason Deal and he will put a report together.”
Rainey said that as of 1 p.m. on Tuesday, there were no reports of homes being destroyed in Moore County. Most of the damage was in the southeastern part of the county near the Lois and Marble Hill communities.
To the south, Lincoln County residents were not as fortunate.
Moore County UT Extension Agent Lorie Burtts, who lives in the Kelso community of Lincoln County, lost everything according to Extension Office administrative assistant Linda Wolaver.
“They have a place to live; they were able to get into a house (Tuesday) night,” said Wolaver, “but both of their vehicles are totaled. We are accepting donations for them here at the extension office.”
Burtts has two daughters and two sons who attend Moore County schools. Anyone wanting to help can call the extension office at (931) 759-7163.
On Wednesday, Gov. Bill Haslam planned to survey the devastation wrought by a deadly tornado in Lincoln County.
Monday night’s tornado started near the Alabama line and cut a path to the northeastern corner of the county, leaving two dead and at least 25 homes and one elementary school destroyed.
“From the east side of (state Route) 64 to the state line, Lincoln County is torn all to hell,” said Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder, in the wake of what is believed to be three twisters that cut a path through the eastern quadrant of the county, the area between U.S. Highway 64 and the Tennessee/Alabama state line, leaving between 9,000 and 11,000 homes without power.
“It was very chaotic for several hours. By the grace of God, we were able to get by with only two fatalities out of this mass destruction.”
The National Weather Service has not yet made a final call on the strength of the tornado, but set a preliminary rating of EF-3 with winds between 136 mph and 165 mph.
Haslam was scheduled to view the damage both from a helicopter and on the ground Wednesday morning.
Authorities on Tuesday identified the victims as John and Karen Prince. They were killed when their mobile home was thrown several hundred yards from its foundation.
Rickey Shelton, who lives up the street from the Prince home, was in his house when his son called to warn him that severe weather was headed his way.
Shelton said he huddled in an interior hallway with his wife as the tornado raged around him.
“I put my arm around her and said a prayer,” he said. “You don’t know how long it is. It feels like forever, and then it feels like it’s quick.”
The tornado tore off the roof and destroyed much of the rest of the house, but left the Sheltons unharmed.
Shelton’s daughter Tiffani Danner, who lives across from the couple killed by the tornado, had left her home before the storm and said she learned of the Princes’ fate when she returned the next day.
Families taking shelter in the South Lincoln Elementary School left after the first storm wave passed, only to have the tornado strike the school about a half-hour later, said Blackwelder.
Blackwelder said the school is likely irreparable, but said he still feels “very, very blessed” that no one was in the school when the tornado hit.
For more coverage on Monday’s storms and to see this story in its entirety – including information on Coffee and Franklin counties – see the May 1 print edition of The Moore County News. To subscribe, click here.
Elk Valley Times publisher Lucy Williams; Moore County News publisher Robert Holman; Tullahoma News staff writer Wayne Thomas and Erik Schelzig of the Associated Press contributed to this story.