Five Tornadoes Confirmed In Tennessee

Five Tornadoes Confirmed In Tennessee

CREATED May 2, 2014
LINCOLN COUNTY, Tenn. – Five tornadoes touched down in Tennessee during severe storms earlier this week.

The National Weather Service said an EF-3 and an EF-2 touched down in Lincoln County on Monday night. An EF-1 twister also touched down in White County.

In West Tennessee, an EF-2 caused damage in Obion County while an EF-0 hit northeast Shelby County.

The tornado ranking scale ranges from EF-0 with gusts of 65 to 85 mph to EF-5 with gusts of more than 200 mph.

Two people were killed in the storm that hit Lincoln County, a largely rural area near the Alabama line. Officials said at least 50 homes were destroyed.

Governor Bill Haslam surveyed the damage to homes and a school by helicopter and on foot on Wednesday, telling reporters afterward that he was struck by the "horrible destructive nature of this and the randomness" of the tornado.

"You'd see one house destroyed and another house 50 yards away, where not a shingle had been overturned," he said.

PHOTOS: Lincoln County Tornado Damage - 4/28/2014

Haslam said he visited the area to "express our sympathy to the families who lost two loved ones and all the other people who have seen their lives turned over end due to the destruction of the storm."

Haslam said the state is estimating the damage to homes and businesses to apply for federal disaster relief.

Wanda Shelton, the county's director of schools, told Haslam that despite extensive damage to South Lincoln Elementary School, the building can be saved. While that work proceeds over the summer, students will attend another nearby school in shifts.

"The sooner we get to some level of normalcy the better," she said.

Across the street from the school, the governor visited a house with extensive damage where an RV had been tossed into a pool. Homeowner Randy Cowley told the governor there had been an outpouring of support from family, friends and volunteers.

"He said, 'I'm doing great — we feel fortunate to be healthy and alive,'" Haslam said. "And everything else can be fixed."

The National Weather Service has set a preliminary rating of EF-3 for the tornado, meaning the twister had winds of between 136 mph and 165 mph.

The couple who lost their lives were identified Tuesday 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.

Lincoln County Sheriff Murray Blackwelder told the governor that the damage could have been far worse.

"Luckily a lot of it was rural areas," Blackwelder said. "The good Lord took care of us. It's a miracle we didn't have more fatalities and more injuries."

(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)