Storms knock out power, damage some Tennessee homes
Posted: Friday, July 31, 2009 8:01 pm
MEMPHIS (AP) — Severe storms have struck Tennessee, bringing at least one confirmed tornado and widespread damage, but no reported serious injuries.
Jim Branda, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Memphis, said a tornado on Thursday struck the Wolfchase area of Shelby County, east of the city.
In Sumner County, northeast of Nashville, storms late Thursday night damaged several homes, dropping trees that blocked roads and knocking out electricity to more than 2,500 customers.
And in East Tennessee, heavy rain fell after daylight today, setting off local street flooding. At midmorning, officials in Blount County had closed sections of four roads, including Calderwood Highway.
The Memphis tornado hit just before 5 p.m. Thursday with winds between 80 and 90 miles per hour. It was classified as an F-1 tornado. It was 250 yards wide and cut a five-mile swath of damage just south of Interstate 40. There was also storm damage in the Midtown area of Memphis.
The Commercial Appeal reports that based on the path of destruction and eyewitness accounts, the tornado touched down somewhere behind a Kohl’s department store on Germantown Pkwy.
It collapsed the store’s south wall before flipping a tractor-trailer in the store’s parking lot and knocking over street lights.
The tornado then hit a small shopping center nearby, a Shogun restaurant and a neighboring gas station before reaching the Countrywood subdivision, where it damaged at least 50 homes.
Andre Chatman, an employee at a Verizon Wireless store, said when the tornado approached he could feel the air pressure increase in the building.
“I felt it in my ears, like on a plane,” he said.
Next door at the Smoothie King, Ashleigh Crawford and Mark Mitchell tried to lock the door but people kept coming to the store seeking shelter.
“People were knocking on the doors and saying, ’Let us in! Let us in!”’ said Mitchell, 17. “They’re saying, ’It’s right behind us!”’
Crawford, 19, was still shaking an hour later.
“I still now feel like somebody punched me in the stomach,” she said.
Between 25 and 30 Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division crews worked to restore power to the area Thursday night.
MLGW reported about 12,000 customers lost power immediately after the storm. By 9 p.m., fewer than 4,000 customers remained without power.
Published in The Messenger 7.31.09