20 people injured, estimated 30 structures damaged after Athens, Tennessee tornado


UPDATE (WJHL) – McMinn County officials held a news conference Wednesday afternoon confirming that 20 people were injured and around 30 structures were damaged after a tornado touched down in Athens and McMinn County, Tenn.

“It appears by all indications that a tornado touched down in McMinn County at approximately 1:30 a.m. Wednesday,” McMinn County Mayor John Gentry said. “While we have no reported causalties in McMinn County at this time, at least 20 people were injured from the storm. We estimate over 30 structures have been damaged or destroyed.”

“I truly appreciate the many first responders as well as the emergency and utility workers who braved very harsh weather conditions to ensure the public’s safety. We continue to ask the public to stay away from storm-damaged areas to allow emergency personnel to perform their duties.”

According to the release, people are being asked to stay away from county roads 700, 439, 372, 422 and 451. Another area to be avoided is South Jackson Street on State Highway 30 in Athens near Save-A-Lot and Highway 307.

A Red Cross shelter has been established for people who have been displaced by the storm at Keith Memorial Church, 600 W. Madison Ave. in Athens.

The shelter also provides cleanup kits for affected residents.

For more information, call the Red Cross at 423-265-3455 or the McMinn County Communications Center at 423-745-3222.

ATHENS, TN (WATE)- McMinn County officials released an update at a news conference on a tornado that touched down in Athens, Tennessee. McMinn County Mayor John Gentry said the tornado touched down at 1:30 a.m.

He said there are no reports of casualities, but there were 20 people injured. Mayor Gentry said three or four of those victims have been transferred to hospitals that offer higher trauma care.

An estimated 30 structures have been damaged, including houses and businesses. Officials are asking people to stay away from heavily impacted roads that still have debris.

The American Red Cross has offered shelter for this impacted.

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The storm team for WATE 6 On Your Side — a sister station of News Channel 11 — 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. Weathers said the assessment is still ongoing.

A press conference is expected at 3:00 p.m. WATE 6 On Your Side will carry it live.


KNOXVILLE (WATE) – 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.

(Courtesy: Elizabeth Rose/Twitter)
(Courtesy: Elizabeth Rose/Twitter)

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.

A possible tornado sighting was in Athens, according to the National Weather Service. McMinn County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy tells WATE 6 On Your Side that there was significant damage to homes in Deerfield Estates on SR 307. At least 23 people were injured. Authorities tell WATE one of the people injured was pregnant. A tree fell on her. There is no information on the extent of her injuries.

Viewers shared photos of damage to a Save-A-Lot location in Athens.

McMinn County, Etowah City and Athens school districts are closed for the day. Cleveland State Community College is closed today.

McMinn County Mayor John 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 dowmed power lines. Monroe County is providing ambulance and fire assistance to McMinn County.

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.

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.

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