GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – It was 10 years ago Thursday that what is known as the Gallatin tornado ravaged the southern sections of Sumner County, as well as other parts of Middle Tennessee.
Damage from tornado-producing storms started before noon in Benton, Humphreys and Dickson counties before moving into Ashland City, where a communications tower fell on a woman’s house, narrowly missing the room she was sheltered in.
Centennial Medical Center also suffered damage.
The tornado temporarily lifted, only to touch down again in northern Davidson County. In Goodlettsville, the Metro Baptist Church was hit hard, with 35 preschool children in the back of the building.
Miraculously, there were no injuries.
The tornado then moved into Hendersonville and Gallatin where seven people lost their lives, including one from a heart attack during the storm.
Seven hundred homes and businesses were either damaged or destroyed in Sumner County.
Volunteer State Community College took a direct hit.
It’s amazing there were no fatalities or serious injuries there, and many experts believe this was due to extensive planning and drills by the management and faculty there.
One key piece of the plan was volunteer “Building Coordinators” for each building.
They were trained to evacuate all persons in their respective buildings to the designated safe place.
“The tornado warning was issued. I alerted the building coordinators. They started moving everyone to their tornado safe areas,” said Lisa Morris with campus police.
In Caudill Hall, the second story collapsed.
Students had been in class upstairs when the building coordinators ushered them downstairs to the safe place.
Debra Lindsay in the Humanities Division said, “We had a plan. We knew the plan. We’ve been having these drills.”
After Vol State, the tornado crossed Gallatin Road, tossing cars into the air at a local dealership, before moving into the Woodhaven Subdivision, destroying or damaging what appeared to be well built homes.
A NWS Storm Survey Team discovered that $500,000 brick homes were not built as well as one might have expected.
Cinder blocks were filled with concrete, and boards were nailed to the cinder block as the base for the foundation. The strong winds caused some brick homes to move off the cinder blocks and collapse.
The tornado was classified as an F-3 (158 to 207 mph winds), and had a path length of 23.75 miles from Davidson through Sumner counties.