It was just a year ago that the storm clouds gathered and wreaked havoc on us here in East Tennessee. I kept looking at the forecast a few days prior and made the decision the day before that we would close the office at noon. My estimation was that the storms would not begin until the afternoon. I was surprised to see flashes of lightning in the distance as I drove in to the office at 6:00 am that morning. The warnings started about 8:00 am and kept coming from then on until Midnight.
Here in Spring City, we had periods of torrential rain and wind off and on all day. When everyone left at noon, I looked around the office and considered what would happen if a storm hit us. It brought home the need for a disaster plan which we had been talking about but never got around to implementing. I made a feeble attempt at securing our files by covering and wrapping them in a tarp I always keep in the truck. At about 4:00 pm I locked up and headed home.
The storms continued through the evening with the I 75 corridor getting the worst of the storms. About 11:00pm, just when I thought it was tapering off, the phone rang and I was told a tornado had hit down town Spring City. Driving into town it became apparent that something was seriously wrong. Heading south on Hwy 27, the west side of the road was pitch black while the east side was all lit up. (Our office is on the east side). I could see the emergency vehicle lights in the residential area behind down town and in talking to some of the sheriff’s deputies I was told that about 20 homes had been damaged or destroyed and that they were still going thorough the damaged homes looking for victims.
The light of day the next morning really brought home the damage that was done. While it was a relatively small area that was hit, the destruction inside the area was incredible. Fortunately we had no deaths or serious injury here. We were luckier that other areas that were hit where lives were lost. Areas to our east were hit much harder and for our county, a tornado on Dayton Mountain took four lives.
A year later, most of the destruction has been cleaned up and if you drove through the area you would not know that the storm had come through here. That night, and the days that followed brought out the best of what is East Tennessee and why this is such a great place to live. The people put aside there normal routine and everyone chipped in to help in some way. I am proud to be a member of this community and I am grateful for the police, sheriff, fire, emergency services personnel and volunteers who were out that night and the days following working hard to help pick up the pieces. I am also proud of the local businesses that helped in whatever way they could.
Today we go about our business but all of us will remember that day last April when the sky’s opened up. While we cannot prevent that from happening again, I at leases, feel more secure knowing that the community I live in will be here for everyone.