Deadly tornadoes strike Tennessee during deadly wildfires


ATHENS, Tenn. (WATE) – The National Weather Service has confirmed a tornado in Athens, Tenn., early Wednesday morning.

mccinn-county-tennessee-tornado-gas-stationThe National Weather Service in Morristown is estimating the McMinn County tornado as an EF-2 tornado with winds from 111-135 miles per hour, but the assessment is still ongoing.

Tennessee Department of Health confirmed that two people died in the state, a husband and wife in Polk County. There were injuries in Polk, Marion and McMinn counties.

Athens Mayor John Gentry says no deaths were reported in McMinn County, but 20 people are reported injured, including a pregnant woman. Three or four were taken to other facilities for a higher level of trauma care, but the rest have been released. Thirty structures were damaged or destroyed, including private and commercial buildings.

Gentry said a baby was born during the tornado. The child’s parents’ home was destroyed but they were able to make it to the hospital to have the baby. The fire chief said the woman was thrown from the home, but both mom and baby are OK.

“We had 20 injured and one brand new life. The Lord works in mysterious ways,” said Gentry.

Storms went through East Tennessee overnight and into early morning Wednesday. TEMA says there was a severe weather outbreak in at least eight counties across the state. The storms caused tornado and thunderstorm warnings, heavy rain and hail.

(Courtesy: Elizabeth Rose/Twitter)
(Courtesy: Elizabeth Rose/Twitter)

Gentry is asking volunteers to not coming to the area in order to allow emergency operations to take place. The county says the many areas are too dangerous due to downed power lines. Monroe County is providing ambulance and fire assistance to McMinn County.

A firefighting crew that was helping in Gatlinburg against the wildfires had to be called back. Officials said one firefighter was injured and the whole crew is working with no sleep.

School buses are preparing to transport displaced residents to a safer area. The Red Cross has created a shelter at Keith Memorial United Methodist Church.

The storm traveled to the Smokies. The area is still battling a wildfire.

Originally published by our Media General sister station in Knoxville, Tenn., WATE-TV