flooding to tornadoes, we get it all. It was one of the worst tornado outbreaks
in Middle Tennessee history and it happened in the dead of winter. January 24, 1997 thirteen tornadoes
blasted through our area causing $9 million dollars in damage!
Home video shot in 1997 of the devastated south ridge subdivision in the
barfield community show homes obliterated by an F-4 tornado. "I was scared, I
was terrified. you know you don't really know how to prepare for that, when it
actually hits your kind of just praying that you're going to be ok and that your
family is going to be safe," said Heather Hoekstra. She was 6 years old at the
time and remembers seeing the massive twister approach. "We were actually
looking out our living room window and it was directly down Hogan Drive," said
Hoekstra. Heather's mom rushed her and her little brother into a closet for
safety. "You could hear the roaring around you, you could hear the trees
snapping and it was quick, it came and it went and then it was silent again,"
recalled Hoekstra. The tornado spared their house and everyone made it out
But others weren't as fortunate.Many homes and businesses were
damaged during the tornado but the worst of it was at the corner of Hogan and
Snead drive, where at least 6 homes were completely flattened to the foundation.
"We get right there to that stop sign and I say Dad, where's the house, where's
the house at, recalls Blake Carter. He was only 7 years old when his family's
home was one of the first to be destroyed by winds estimated to be over 200
miles per hour! "It just looks like a big bomb went of, there's really no other
way to explain it," said Carter.
When the tornado was at its strongest it
was over 300 yards wide. "I just didn't understand that something that powerful
could take a whole house, but it wasn't just ours man, it was the whole block,"
"It looked pretty bad to me, I had a feeling it was going to
be," said Mark Richards Lead Forecaster at the National Weather Service Office
in Nashville. Richards was working the radar that day for the National Weather
Service. They were credited for saving hundreds of lives during the tornado
outbreak by giving hardest hit areas up to a 40 minute warning that a twister
was headed their way! "Yes it makes you feel good, that unfortunately is rare,
that's an event where that was very good, very very good," said
Through all of the bad, some good lessons were learned, Middle
Tennessee State University was spared by the tornado by only a few miles--in
1997 the school only had one warning siren now it has six. A system is now in
place that automatically texts and calls the school's 26 thousand students in
the event of a tornado warning. Student's also have specific safe locations in
each building to seek shelter. "I think we are exponentially ahead. we are way
ahead of where we were in 1997 there were not some of the technological advances
at that time that allowed people to do their own thing and to make themselves
self aware," said Buddy Peaster M.T.S.U. Chief of Police.
changed at the national weather service as well, storm reports on Facebook and
Twitter provide priceless information on tornado locations. "On high end events
we try to have one person dedicated just to that because the amount of data is
so tremendous you really can't even take your eyes off of it
For those that have lived through the storm, they learned never
to underestimate the power of mother nature. " Since then I've been following
the weather every single day," said Carter. "Yes you can ask anyone I know, I'm
very terrified of storms now," said Hoekstra.
tornadoes account for only 7 percent of twisters each year in Middle Tennessee,
it proves severe weather can strike at any time of the year. Now is the time to
have a plan in place for your family!
If a wild weather event has shaped
your community contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, February 17 2012, 05:46 PM CST
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