Macon County dodged the tornado bullet last Friday as debris from Gallatin and Hendersonville rained across the area, accompanied by large hail and some damaging winds.
“If the tornado which struck Goodlettsville and Gallatin had stayed on the ground, we could have experienced a similar degree of damage here in Macon County,” reported LFD Chief and Emergency Management Director Keith Scruggs. This area was in the direct path of the devastating storm.
“We were contacted by state officials at mid-morning Friday and continually monitored the progress of the storms on ‘real time' radar, and on the television news. Storms such as this typically weaken or at least slow down when they hit the Highland Rim. We were hoping this would be true last week, but no one was taking any chances,” concluded Scruggs.
Macon County Schools were loading or were about to load school buses Friday afternoon when Westside Principal David Flynn contacted Schools Supervisor Mike Prock and advised him the first storm had passed his location at 2:45 p.m.
“I'd spent a large part of the day monitoring the radar and contacting other school systems in the storm's path,” said Prock this Monday. “After speaking with (David) Flynn, and finding out how severe and fast moving the storms were, we stopped all buses, unloaded any students that had already boarded and took them back inside the schools and put a lock-down on the buildings. We held the students until about 3:35 when we once again loaded buses and began running the Friday afternoon bus routes,” said Prock.
Some parents had come to the schools in their personal vehicles to pick up their children. However, many took shelter themselves inside the schools,... as the hail began to fall and the intensity of the storms approaching from the southwest became apparent.
DEBRIS AS LARGE as sheets of roof metal and heavy-gage metal signs littered yards and highways here, along with roofing shingles and insulation. Residents of Ellington Drive filled garbage bags with fiberglass insulation when caught in their yard trees. Paperwork originating from Gallatin businesses was reported to be found as far away from the Sumner County disaster area as Monticello, Kentucky. County Mayor's office bookkeeper Anita Hesson found a crumpled piece of billing listing Moore Plumbing of Gallatin as a job subcontractor. The paper had a small piece of pink fiberglass insulation stuck to the top corner.
The tornadoes apparently sucked debris up into the tops of the storms and scattered items large and small over a large area. A crumpled metal sign from a Hendersonville lawn service business was found in the yard of Maxie Phillips, who lives on the Williams Road. “I called one of the phone numbers and the fellow said he had been out of business for three or four years and the sign had been in his mother's garage.”
“He said, ‘the garage isn't there anymore either',” related Phillips, who said he'd also found a sheet of roofing metal and the top of a Whirlybird attic vent in his back yard.
THE HEAVIEST HAIL DAMAGE was reported in a wide-spread path beginning in Green Grove in southern Macon County, and extending north of Lafayette out the Coolidge and Galen Roads into southern Kentucky.
“We've had about 500 calls, either roof or vinyl siding damage to homes, or hail damage to autos and trucks,” reported Farm Bureau Insurance spokesman Anthony Hackette this Tuesday morning.
“Areas where there was serious property damage, it seems as though we go from house to house down this or that particular road. The largest hail was apparently in concentrated areas, and two homeowners insurance adjusters and one for auto insurance claims are ‘in the field'. They are seeing 30 to 50 customers each day and working their way down a long list of about 500 of our customers. We're writing checks on the spot for some, while waiting for detailed estimates from others. There are many reports of hail damage to vehicles, and our auto adjuster has ‘totaled' at least one vehicle so far this week,” reported Hackette.
SEVERAL FIREFIGHTERS who live in Macon County and work for the Gallatin Fire Department were called in Friday afternoon when the severity of the tornadoes and storm damage there became apparent. “Todd Wagner, Troy Moss and I all work part time at the LFD and full-time for the Gallatin Fire Department,” reported Jeff Owens this Monday afternoon.
“We arrived on the scene about four o'clock and joined crews searching through the rubble and damaged houses and buildings for injured and survivors,” continued Owens.
“We were also searching for broken gas lines and downed power lines that might still be hot, and helping with traffic control.”
Ownes reported that 28 TVA power line towers were toppled by the storms, while the latest unofficial counts reported 168 homes destroyed in the Gallatin area alone.
Local insurance and investment agent Chris A. Johnson lives in the Hendersonville neighborhood hardest hit by the same tornado which devastated parts of Gallatin.
“Our house is only two blocks from the half-mile wide area that took so many houses here, and we had virtually no damage. Our power was out until Monday morning, but other than that we were untouched. It seems almost unreal, but we are oh, so grateful to be alive and unharmed!”