ATHENS (WATE) – The WATE 6 On Your Side storm team says the National Weather Service has confirmed a tornado in Athens early Wednesday morning.
The National Weather Service in Morristown is estimating the McMinn County tornado as an EF-2 tornado with winds from 111-135 miles per hour, according to WATE 6 On Your Side Meteorologist Ken Weathers. The latest preliminary report says the tornado’s path was almost 12 miles long and 200 yards wide.
Mayor John Gentry says no fatalities were reported in McMinn County, but 20 people are reported injuries, one of whom authorities say was pregnant. Three or four were taken to other facilities for a higher level of trauma care, but the rest have been released. Thirty structures were damaged or destroyed, including private and commercial buildings.
Gentry said a baby was born during the tornado – the child’s parents’ home was destroyed, but they were able to make it to the hospital to have the baby. The fire chief said the woman was thrown from the home, but both mom and baby are okay.
“We had 20 injured and one brand new life. The Lord works in mysterious ways,” said Gentry.
Gentry is asking people to stay away from County Roads 700, 439, 372, 422 and 451, as well as S. Jackson Street, State Highway 30 near Save-a-Lot, and State Highway 307 in Athens.
Storms went through East Tennessee overnight and into early morning Wednesday. TEMA says there was a severe weather outbreak in at least eight counties across the state. The storms caused tornado and thunderstorm warnings, heavy rain and hail.
Viewers shared photos of damage to a Save-A-Lot location in Athens.
Mayfield Dairy told WTVC-TV their plant in Athens sustained some damage, but no one was injured.
McMinn County, Etowah City and Athens school districts are closed for the day. Cleveland State Community College is closed today.
Gentry is asking volunteers to not coming to the area in order to allow emergency operations to take place. The county says the many areas are too dangerous due to downed power lines. Monroe County is providing ambulance and fire assistance to McMinn County.
A firefighting crew that was helping in Gatlinburg had to be called back. Officials said one firefighter was injured and the whole crew is working with no sleep.
School buses are preparing to transport displaced residents to a safer area. The Red Cross has created a shelter at Keith Memorial United Methodist Church.
Tennessee Department of Health confirmed that two people died in the state, a husband and wife in Polk County. There were injuries in Polk, Marion and McMinn counties.
The storm traveled to the Smokies, the area is still battling a wildfire.
McGhee Tyson Airport tweeted all flights are operating on time.
A tornado destoryed the Ocoee Post Office in Benton, Tennessee. Also, the West Polk Fire Department was damaged during the storms in Polk County, according to WTVC. There was several damage to buildings and downed power lines in Bedford, Marion, Bradley, Coffee, Franklin and Sequatchie counties. Three people were injured in Marion County.
Storms were seen across the South. According to the Associated Press, three people in northern Alabama were killed after a possible tornado.