Severe weather ravages Midwest, South; County braces for continued rain

By Abby Morris
Star Staff

   A string of deadly storms swept across Tennessee Monday killing 13 people in the western portion of the state, while Northeast Tennessee received only minor thunderstorms and strong winds.
   According to The Associated Press, a tornado swept through Madison County and the town of Jackson late Sunday, leaving 11 people dead. Tornados also ravaged the Midwest portion of the United States leaving 21 dead in that region.
   Businesses and homes were also destroyed across the state and in the Midwest.
   "We had a few trees down on Friday night blocking roads and some power lines down," said Carter County Sheriff John Henson. "We had no real damage though."
   The only potential pending hazard, according to Henson, is the possibility of flooding if the predicted rainfall for the week turns into a reality. "The lake level is already up and the creeks are already up. If we get a heavy down pour (of) rain, we'll have some problems," he said. "We'll have to keep an eye on it and see what happens."
   According to Elizabethton/Carter County Emergency Management Agency interim director Reneé Bowers, the rain that Sheriff Henson mentioned may be on the way. "We are supposed to have major thunderstorms all the way through next Wednesday," she said.
   Carter County was under a tornado watch on Monday morning, Bowers said.
   According to the National Weather Service, a "tornado watch" means that a tornado is possible. If a "tornado warning" is issued, according to NWS, then a tornado has been spotted or is strongly indicated on radar.
   Carter County has been struck by three tornadoes since the NWS started tracking storm systems in the county. All three of those tornadoes have struck in the Stoney Creek community - one in the late 1970s, one in 1998 and the third in 2001.
   While tornadoes are a threat for Carter County, other types of severe weather occur in the area, according to Howard Waldron, warning coordination meteorologist for the NWS office in Morristown. "The biggest hazard in East Tennessee is the thunderstorm outburst," he said. As part of that, he added, lightning and flash flooding pose dangers to the counties in the area.
   Flooding and flash flooding are also deadly, proving to be the number one weather related cause for loss of life, according to the NWS. Because flash floods happen in a short period of time, generally less than six hours, they are more life threatening than general floods or river floods.
   Bowers stresses that residents need to be prepared for home safety, and, in the event of a weather warning, should turn on a local radio or television station to stay informed of the current situation.
   In the event of high winds and a warning that tornadoes are possible, individuals are advised to find a safe place in their home where they can avoid windows and any other area where they may encounter flying glass or debris.
   If a tornado is spotted, residents who live in mobile homes are advised to seek shelter elsewhere. If individuals are outdoors, they are advised to seek indoor shelter or to lie in a ditch or other low spot and avoid trees. If driving, residents are advised to stop the vehicle and get out and seek shelter away from the vehicle.
   According to Bowers, Carter County has designated shelter areas that would be opened in the event of a major severe weather event.