Killer tornadoes strike TN towns


JACKSON, TN (Jan. 18, 1999) -- Emergency officials worked with survivors

today to determine the full extent of the damages caused by a serious of

tornadoes that struck near this west-central Tennessee city Sunday evening.

At least eight people were killed and as many as 100 were injured when a

thin, swift line of severe storms ripped through the state.

Church World Service (CWS), the United Methodist Committee on Relief

(UMCOR) and the American Red Cross are among relief organizations

responding to help survivors.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) officials said the 30-mile-wide

swath of storms traveled through the state between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. at a

speed of 50-60 mph, spawning tornado touchdowns in 12 West and Middle

Tennessee counties.

High winds toppled trees and knocked down power and phone lines, leaving

10,000 in the dark and 40,000 to 50,000 without long-distance phone service.

The storm generated hail stones almost five inches in diameter.

According to TEMA's preliminary report, other West Tennessee counties were

affected. A twister touched-down in Henderson County, south of Jackson,

killing one woman and damaging 30 homes. In Hardiman and Carroll Counties, 17

people needed hospitalization. And in Lauderdale, a mobile home park was


TEMA also said three Central Tennessee counties, Dickson, Stewart, and Sumner,

have reported light damage but no injuries. Cecil Whaley, TEMA's Director

of National Hazards, said at least 10 other homes sustained damage in

Bellevue and Joelton.

West Tennessee received the brunt of the storm, according to TEMA. A tornado

that moved through Jackson in Madison County claimed 7 lives and sent 34 to

Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.

"We've got about 50 sheltered with the Red Cross, and National Guard

troops have been mobilized," said. "Right now, we have a lot of

government personnel cleaning-up and two UH-60 helicopters to survey the

damage in Jackson...we'll not know the extent of the damage until sometime


Whaley said that TEMA will spend the day completing impact assessments. In

addition, Tennessee Governor Don Sundquist will tour the devastated regions

and a FEMA representative, will be in Jackson to survey the damage.

Martha Manuel, a secretary for the United Methodist Church in Jackson, has

been without electricity since 6 p.m. last night. Manuel said she didn't see

the funnel cloud, and the alert siren did not go off. But when she

realized how lucky she had been. "It missed my home by one house," she


Cathy Farmer, director of communications for the Memphis Conference of The

United Methodist Church, said Bemis UMC was expected to be used in relief

activities. A church in nearby Halls, was seriously damaged by the storms.

A representative with UMCOR is being sent to the area, she said.

The Red Cross has shelters in at least two locations and area schools have

suspended classes Tuesday -- more than 25 percent of the area's school bus

fleet was destroyed when a tornado plowed through a bus barn.

While TEMA continues to assess damages and injuries, disaster relief teams

await, ready to assist those affected, said Charles Moeller, a CWS regional

facilitator, who expects to be travelling to the area in the next few days.

"We have to let the emergency management people do their job. If they have

immediate needs, we will respond."

Saturday marked the 8 month anniversary of a 1998 storm that sent a similar

line of tornadoes through the state, killing eight, injuring 155, and

rendering almost half of Tennessee a major disaster area.

Posted Jan. 18, 1999

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