Tornado touchdown verified

Roof ripped off Jones Cove home
Jun. 15, 2013 @ 05:57 PM
The National Weather Service confirmed Friday afternoon that a tornado touched down in Sevier County, but Pat Barnes was already certain that what ripped the roof of her home was a funnel cloud.
 
Barnes was in the house with her 92-year-old mother and a neighbor with a 2-year-old daughter. The others had gone to the basement after a tornado warning was issued but she was still watching the TV shortly before 4 p.m.
 
She wasn’t worried as much about herself at the time as her son, who was in Pittman Center.
 
Then she heard the meteorologist say a dangerous line of storms would be in her area at that exact moment. She looked out the window and saw the cloud on the ridge across Henry Town Road from her house.
 
“It was coming across the trees,” she said. “I ran to the basement and said ‘It’s here’ and jumped on my mom.”
 
Then it was on them.
 
Her mother, Unave Holt, might have handled it better than the rest of them — she’s blind and doesn’t hear well, so she wasn’t so sure what was happening.
 
Abbie Mole, her neighbor, was covering her daughter, Addison.
 
“It was very scary,” Abbie said Friday, as she held her child. “She was screaming.” She said Addison had hardly let her get out of sight since the storm.
 
They both remember the roar as the storm ripped the roof of Barnes’s home. “It’s a sound I don’t ever want to hear again,” Barnes said.
 
She didn’t immediately realize the roof was gone. But they knew water had started to pour into the basement. Then they realized light was streaming in from somewhere, and Barnes went upstairs.
 
“I screamed ‘my house is gone, my house is gone!’” she said. “It’s just still not real.”
 
Her husband, Connie, was working at a house a few miles away. He said he knew it had stormed, but didn’t know how what had happened to his house until a niece came and told him he needed to get home because the roof of his house was gone.
 
Like his wife, he didn’t immediately comprehend the damage. After that, he said, he was relieved everyone as all right.
 
They were waiting Friday to talk to an insurance adjuster, and are staying with their daughter.
 
In the meantime, officials from the National Weather Service office in Morristown came to the scene to assess the damage. The NWS issued a tornado warning Thursday, meaning either a funnel cloud has been seen or that weather radar indicates conditions are right for a tornado to form.
 
They don’t confirm a tornado touched down until they see the damage. “When we give it a rating it’s based on damages it caused,” meteorologist David Gaffin said.
 
Officlas concluded shortly before 4 p.m. that what hit the Barnes’s home was, indeed, a tornado — an EF-1, meaning winds reached 86 to 110 mph. “We’re estimating about 90, kind of on the low end,” Gaffin said.
 
The NWS estimated the tornado touched down about 14 miles southeast of Sevierville.
 
There weren’t many reports of additional damage in the area, which is sparsely populated, and there were no reports of injures related to the tornado or the severe storms that accompanied it.
 
Sevier County Emergency Management Agency Director John Matthews said he’d received reports of two more homes damaged — both on East Balls Hollow Road, not far from the Barneses’ house.
 
Neighbors living in that area said the road was impassable in places Thursday night due to downed trees, and crews were out Friday morning clearing trees and repairing power lines.
 
Downed trees could be seen all along East Balls Hollow Friday evening, with some still jutting into the narrow, curvy road.
 
The storms left more than 2,200 Sevier County Electric System customers without power Thursday, but by Friday only a few small outages remained.
 
n jfarrell@themountainpress.com