Twenty years ago, April 16, 1998, the infamous Nashville Tornado roared down Charlotte Avenue, West End and Broadway, through downtown Nashville and into East Nashville.
But while the destruction in Nashville was capturing headlines on TV that day, a large and violent tornado formed in south Middle Tennessee. Tennessee’s only F-5 tornado ever recorded with 261 to 318 mph winds.
It killed three people in Wayne and Hardin Counties before moving through Lawrence County, injuring twenty one people and completely destroying several houses.
National Weather Service surveys in Lawrence County found many fine homes, some even brick, were completely leveled. Trees were uprooted or blown down, power lines were down, 75 utility poles were blown down around the county.
People who were at their homes went to the basement, or in a closet, or in a bathroom. A tree was debarked by the flying debris. A 200 yard wide path of pasture land had grass pulled out. Clumps of dirt was pulled up from the ground. Several livestock were killed.
Lawrence County resident Linda Graves’ house was totally destroyed. She and her family made the wise decision to shelter at a neighbor’s house who had a basement.
“If it hadn’t been for that, I wouldn’t be here and most of my family wouldn’t be here because we would not have survived,” Graves said.
Mrs. Graves shared pictures with News 2 of the rubble left of her house, as well as several of the family’s vehicles, one of which was picked up and thrown “quite a long ways”.
Doug Alley and his son Clint took video of the tornado as it passed just to their north.
“I saw it coming over the horizon, and to me it looked like it kept getting larger and larger. And it looked like it was getting darker and darker as it sucked debris into the funnel,” Clint Alley told News 2.
His father Doug remembers the sound of the tornado:
“It sounded like a jet airplane. It reminded me of if you took a jet airplane, a big jet airplane and pulled it up against a mountainside and it was just sitting there with he engines wide open, but couldn’t go anywhere.”
Ironically, their home had been destroyed by an F-4 tornado just three years before, and this one was too close for comfort.
“I hope to never see anything like that again,” Clint said.
That same storm moved into northern Giles County and Maury County dropping another tornado that caused extensive damage in the Culleoka-Tice Town area. Many homes were damaged, trees and power lines were down, and several trailers were destroyed or damaged.
Because of the media coverage of the damage in Nashville, many in south Middle Tennessee refer to this tornado as “The Forgotten F-5.”