A very rare EF-4 tornado took place Wednesday, April 27th, just after 8 pm ET in Catoosa County, Georgia. This tornado would go on to kill 7 people. It also blow tractor trailers, semis & automobiles off I-75 as well. This blog includes information on the storm’s continuation into Hamilton, Bradley, & Polk Counties in Tennessee.
Here is a Google Earth representation of the path that this tornado took that the Atlanta NWS did.
Also, this image was along Cherokee Valley Road northeast of Ringgold. Here 4 out of the 7 people died in this area from this tornado.
Below is the write up that the Atlanta NWS did on this tornado.
F4 TORNADO IN CATOOSA COUNTY…
A NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE STORM SURVEY TEAM DETERMINED THAT AN EF4 TORNADO WITH WINDS OF 175 MPH OCCURRED IN CATOOSA COUNTY. IT TOUCHED DOWN APPROXIMATELY 813 PM EDT WEDNESDAY EVENING ALONG DAVIS RIDGE ROAD…TRAVELING THROUGH RINGGOLD TO NORTHWEST OF COHUTTA AND INTO TENNESSEE AROUND 828 PM EDT. THE PATH LENGTH WAS 13 MILES WITH A WIDTH OF ONE THIRD OF A MILE. SEVEN FATALITIES AND 30 INJURIES OCCURRED WITH THIS TORNADO. 75 TO 100 HOMES WERE DAMAGED OR DESTROYED. THE WORST DAMAGE WAS LOCATED ON CHEROKEE VALLEY ROAD WHERE 12 HOMES WERE OBLITERATED.
A NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE STORM SURVEY DETERMINED THAT AN EF4 TORNADO WITH WINDS OF 175 MPH OCCURRED IN CATOOSA COUNTY AS PART OF THE HISTORIC APRIL 27-28 2011 OUTBREAK. EF4 TORNADOES ARE VERY RARE IN GEORGIA. INCLUDING THIS EVENT…ONLY EIGHT EF4/F4 TORNADOES HAVE OCCURRED IN GEORGIA SINCE 1950.
This storm continued into Bradley, Polk & Hamilton County Tennessee. Here is what the Knoxville, TN weather office wrote on this.
8:29 PM, 04/27/2011: Tornado, 4 SE Collegedale, Hamilton, TN. 13 FATAL *** EF4. MAX WIND SPEED 190 MPH. PATH WIDTH 800 YARDS. PATH LENGTH 35 MILES. NORTHEAST TRACK CONTINUES THROUGH BRADLEY COUNTY AND INTO POLK COUNTY.
EF-4 TORNADO CONFIRMED IN HAMILTON…BRADLEY…AND POLK COUNTIES OF SOUTHEAST TENNESSEE…
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MORRISTOWN HAS COMPLETED AN ASSESSMENTOF THE STORM DAMAGE THAT OCCURRED IN HAMILTON…BRADLEY…AND POLK COUNTIES. THE TORNADO REACHED AN INTENSITY OF A STRONG EF4 IN SOUTHEAST HAMILTON COUNTY WITH A MAXIMUM WIND SPEED OF 190 MPH. THE TORNADO COMPLETELY LEVELED SEVERAL HOMES IN HAMILTON COUNTY…AND PRODUCED EXTENSIVE DAMAGE IN BRADLEY COUNTY BEFORE DISSIPATING IN POLK COUNTY. 150 HOMES WERE ESTIMATED TO HAVE DAMAGE IN HAMILTON…AND BRADLEY COUNTIES…WITH NUMEROUS TREES DOWN IN POLK. THE PATH WIDTH OF THIS TORNADO WAS 800 YARDS OR ROUGHLY ONE HALF OF A MILE. THE TOTAL LENGTH OF ITS TRACK WAS 35 MILES. PRELIMINARY REPORTS INDICATE 13 FATALITIES…8 IN HAMILTON COUNTY…AND 5 IN BRADLEY COUNTY.
By the time all was said and done, this tornado was on the ground close to 50 miles. All this info is preliminary and is subject to change. It’s hard to tell if this was one tornado or two, as well.
I made the change in the NWS bulletin. Thanks to Sandra, who lives in the area, not far from where this tornado passed, for clarifying it for me. I appreciate it. Also here is what Sandra wrote:
“I would like to dispute the statement that the tornado went to Cohutta from Ringgold. I live on Keith Road outside of the city. We live on a ridge off Condra. If you were to draw a line west it would go to around a litle north of Happy Lane on Cherokee Valley Rd. A line East would take you to Cohutta. When the Channel 3 weather man said the tornado would be in the Keith area in a 20 I went to our back porch to look. I was horrified as I saw it behind Sand Mtn. I ran back in the house and got my cell phone and had my husband and mother come and look. I wanted to make sure it didn’t turn toward us. It was HUGE and we could hear it moan and groan as it churned it’s way toward Apison. I called my daughter to warn her… It killed six people a half mile from her. There was no damage where she lived. I filmed the cloud as it traveled and it didn’t turn toward Cohutta from our vantage point. Our daughter lives between Bates Rd. and Alabama…we always call here when we see storms headed that way… We have heard nothing of storm damage in Cohutta. Our neighbor has gone to Red Clay park every day since the tornado and has had not problems getting there. That is not far from Cohutta. What do you think?? Why was Cherokee Valley Rd. not an F5 rating..it is horrific to see!”
Thanks again to Sandra for the clarification on that! And I agree with Sandra. I thought this tornado might go EF-5 as well. It still might, we don’t know!
Thank you to Sarah who added this about the tornado. “I live off Holcomb Road in Ringgold and we can see two distinct paths of damage. There is a swath of trees down behind my house that parallel poplar springs and neighbor said they saw the funnel cloud over that way but there is also a path of damage to the east of here that starts on Brock Circle and goes through Bent Tree Subdivision off Dedmon Road and part of my subdivision, Stonecrest, to Holcomb road. My neighbors and I all think there were two tornadoes or funnel clouds at this point that came back together over the Food Lion at Poplar Springs and Highway 151.”
Also, big thanks to Paul, in response to what Sarah posted up above and who added this as well. “I noticed this as well when I was at my parents house last weekend. My parents live in the back of Sharondale Estates off Poplar Springs. The tornado went directly over our back yard downing 11 large mature trees, but not strong enough to do any structural damage. The path went westward from my parents back yard paralleling Poplar Springs crossing Holcomb Road as you mentioned. I thought that was the one and only path, but later while driving back over on Dedmon Road realized all the damage at Bent Tree and Misty Ridge subdivision. Not the same path, but close by. It does appear the paths merged and strengthen and the Ace Hardware and Food Lion.” Thanks for your post, Paul.
Sandra also had sent me some pics of this tornado. I have included 3 of those pictures below plus one to start this blog off. I have more pictures of this tornado. I will let you, my blog viewers decide if I should post all 6 of them or just these 4. Here are 2 of the tornado pics below.
More Information/Author’s Note: This twister set down along Davis Ridge Road in Catoosa County, Georgia, before reaching the towns of Ringgold and tracking just northwest of Cohutta. Between 75 and 100 homes were damaged or destroyed; with the most severe damage occurring on Cherokee Valley Road in Catoosa County, where twelve homes were flattened. A Super 8 Motel, located near Interstate 75 was also flattened by the tornado, along with a McDonald’s, a Taco Bell and several gas stations located on Highway 151 in Ringgold at the Interstate 75 interchange (exit 348), and the Catoosa County Department of Family and Children Services and other businesses on Nashville Street in downtown Ringgold. The Kellerhals Center for Visual Arts Education at Ringgold High School was destroyed, and Ringgold Middle School was heavily damaged.
The storm then crossed the Tennessee state line at 8:28 p.m. EDT, into Hamilton and Bradley County, Tennessee, and became a strong EF4, before lifting in Polk County; several homes in Hamilton County were leveled, with 150 homes suffering varying damage in Hamilton and Bradley Counties. Several trees fell in Polk County, before the tornado dissipated. All roads in and out of Ringgold were closed until the morning of April 29; after roads leading to the affected areas were reopened, residents and business owners were allowed to return, being allowed entry only by providing identification, and informing police a reason why they are entering into the area, in order to curb looting in the storm-damaged areas. The tornado killed twenty people along its 48 mile path across Catoosa, Hamilton and Bradley Counties (including eight fatalities in Ringgold, ranging in age from 16 to 86 years old, including an entire family of four), and at least thirty others were injured, some sustaining serious injuries. The tornado was given a preliminary rating of EF4 with winds estimated between 175-190 mph, though it may have been stronger elsewhere along the path, pending further analysis during the storm survey. The damage path of the tornado was between one-third and one-half mile wide. This tornado is only the eighth in Georgia to be categorized as an EF4 or F4 on the (Enhanced) Fujita Scale, since official tornado records have been kept in 1950.
Thank you to all who have contributed to this blog post. Without you, who witnessed this tornado, this post wouldn’t be as good as it was originally.