EF1 tornado hits near National Guard Armory and Bon Air

Posted By | February 10, 2020 2:25 pm

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(Photos by Becky Golden, Tracy Prater, Sherrie Beth McCulley)

By Rachel Auberger

Significant rain, rising waters, and strong winds caused damage all across White County last week.

“We received hundreds of calls over Wednesday night and Thursday morning concerning flooding, trees, and other debris across roadways and damages to homes and other structures,” Suzi Haston, White County E-911 director, reported.

According to Jimmy Savage, volunteer director of White County Emergency Management Agency, the storm entered through the southwestern part of the county where one home received significant damage and a secondary roof covering was torn off of a trailer.

“One house in the south end of the county may be a total loss,” Savage said. “I can’t say for sure, but the roof, along with the top portion of the walls, has been ripped off.”

A trailer located on the 200 block of Mount Gilead Church Road lost its secondary roofing before the storm traveled northeast causing significant damage along the 1600 and 1700 blocks of McMinnville Highway.

Trees were broken off and many were uprooted at the National Guard Armory and nearby homes located along Wheat’s Curve. There were multiple reports of trees on the road and powerlines on Crawford Circle and adjacent railroad tracks.

According to Savage, when the storm moved to the northeastern end of White County, it tore over half the shingles off of a home at the 700 block of James Lambert Road causing significant water damage to the house. In addition, a barn on the property was damaged and considered a total loss, however, at this time, damage to the vehicles and other items inside the structure has not been assessed because of the inability to access the barn.

“At another location, a garage was completely blown away,” Savage said, talking about property located on Blue Springs Road. “The contents of that garage never moved – they are still sitting exactly like they were before the storm – but the garage itself was ripped up and thrown around the property.”

Before the storm moved out of the county, a block garage was destroyed, with significant damage done to the vehicles inside the garage, along with shingles being torn off the home on the property on the 4700 block of Coal Bank Road.

Savage went on to say that 500 people were without power during the storm, but by Thursday evening it had been restored.

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the National Weather Service visited White County, on Feb. 7, 2020, to determine if the damage was due to straight line winds or tornados.

“Residents reported hearing a loud roar right before the storm hit them, and it looks to me like some of the trees may have been twisted, but we can’t say for sure until they come and do their assessment,” Savage said. “We hope to have answers this evening.”

(Editor’s note: Information received after this story was written stated that NOAA reports indicate the storm that hit at the Sparta National Guard Armory was an EF1 tornado, with winds at 105 mph. Bon Air Mountain area also experienced an EF1 tornado, with winds at 100 mph.)

More rain, with some reports estimating a possibility of up to six more inches, is expected this week.

“We would encourage anyone that experiences an emergency of any kind, including weather related, to call 9-1-1,” Haston said, as she stressed that central dispatch would rather have hundreds of calls if it means they can help someone rather than have people trying to make their way through the damage alone. “However, if it’s a non-emergency, they can call central dispatch at 738-7111. You still get access to the same dispatchers and the same services –  it just lets us know the level of severity and the amount of help needed when the call is coming in.”


White County EF-1 Tornado Southwest of Sparta


Rating: EF1

Estimated Peak Wind: 105 mph

Path Length /statute/: 4.03 miles

Path Width /maximum/: 250 yards

Fatalities: 0

Injuries: 0


Start Date: 02/05/2020

Start Time: 7:55 PM CST

Start Location: 3 NNW Doyle / White County / TN

Start Lat/Lon: 35.9001 / -85.5391


End Date: 02/05/2020

End Time: 7:59 PM CST

End Location: 2 S Sparta / White County / TN

End Lat/Lon: 35.9006 / -85.4728


Survey Summary:

The tornado touched down on Gum Spring Mountain where a house completely lost its roof along with dozens of trees getting uprooted and snapped. An outbuilding and barn were also damaged. The tornado continued east bringing down trees and powerlines before finally

hitting the National Guard Armory on McMinnville Highway where numerous large pine trees were snapped. The tornado lifted just before reaching Highway 111.


White County EF-1 Tornado Northeast of Sparta


Rating: EF1

Estimated Peak Wind: 100 mph

Path Length /statute/: 6.16 miles

Path Width /maximum/: 250 yards

Fatalities: 0

Injuries: 0


Start Date: 02/05/2020

Start Time: 8:02 PM CST

Start Location: 3 ENE Sparta / White County / TN

Start Lat/Lon: 35.9522 / -85.4173


End Date: 02/05/2020

End Time: 8:09 PM CST

End Location: 6 WSW Pleasant Hill / White County / TN

End Lat/Lon: 35.957 / -85.3079


Survey Summary:

The tornado touched down just west of Blue Springs Road and snapped several trees along with destroying a barn. A covered porch was also destroyed at this location as well as the roof of a single story home. The tornado continued eastward across a holler/valley before causing extensive tree damage on James Lambert Road. Several outbuildings and barns were completely destroyed as well as extensive damage to a mobile home. The tornado went up a mountain and back down and then hit a barn/outbuilding on Cross Street. The tornado finally lifted near Viola Drive where further minor tree damage was observed.

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