Melissa Keller ran to her bathroom to hide as the wind gusted to the sound of a barrel train descending on the community where she has lived with her family for nearly 50 years.
She was one of the lucky ones in Lewis County. His home was still standing Saturday morning after a massive storm ripped through the South, wreaking havoc and killing 21 people in West Tennessee.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cellar said. “The building moved over 15 feet.”
But just as many structures were destroyed following possible tornadoes and hurricanes that devastated parts of southern and southern Middle Tennessee.
Late:Rutherford is nearing storms, most likely tornadoes in Middle Tennessee
Cannon, Lewis, Macon, Marshall, Rutherford and Wayne counties sustained devastating losses Friday night into Saturday morning. National Weather Service Officials were still determining whether any of the storms with stronger winds were actually tornadoes.
Lewis County is in south central Tennessee with the county seat in Hohenwald. Officials reported that about 10 homes were lost there Saturday morning. Several sailors were injured in the emergency as they continue to assess the damage from the storm overnight.
“He lost my sister’s house in that rush,” Cellar said. “They just built it last year.”
The city of Readyville looks to rebuild after the tornado
In Readyville, volunteers searched and cleaned up debris as dangerous winds blew through the area.
Beloved and historic properties were destroyed, including the Readyville Mill, built in 1812 and rebuilt after it was leveled during the Civil War.
The idyllic event venue Corners on the Stone River in a large brick house built in 1829, and Russell’s Market, known for its bologna sandwiches, is expected to be a near total loss.
The roof was sent to the Readyville Post Office, a community near the borders of Cannon and Rutherford counties.
Utility crews with Middle Tennessee Electric blocked the roads to repair lines and poles, while neighbors cut power lines to trees that fell in large numbers.
Readyville resident Cameron Bailey helped neighbors after the tornado, which came just before 2am, passed through the city without damaging his home while the family was sheltering in their basement.
“When we got out, we called our neighbors for help,” Bailey said. “People are trapped under their roofs. I got my friend’s family from their dealer.”
Rutherford County officials are asking for help from the president in Readyville
Rutherford County Mayor Joe Carr asked Gov. Bill Lee to declare a state of emergency and provide public assistance for the “devastated” Readyville community, according to a release from Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lisa Marchesoni.
“It looked like a bomb had gone off,” Carr said in a press release.
Some residents had minor injuries.
The storm also destroyed many homes on Readyville Street and the Tilford Lumber Co. building, the mayor said.
“They were leaving some homes completely untouched,” said Carr, who met with Cannon County Mayor Greg Mitchell to support both counties’ support.
Several homes were damaged on US Highway 70 South, known as the John Bragg Highway.
Rutherford County Emergency Management Agency Director Chris Clark sent a letter to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to request a state of emergency declaration.
“Prayers are determined that rescue and recovery efforts will not be hindered,” Clark said.
Emergency responders searched for residents in the dark and continued relief operations after daylight.
Pollucis was struck just before 2am, drawing a response from the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, Rutherford County Fire & Rescue, Kittrell Volunteer Fire Department, Rutherford County Emergency Medical Services, Rutherford County Emergency Management Agency and Murfreesboro Fire Rescue.
“In a time of great loss, they showed kindness and compassion,” Carr said. “We don’t know how good our guys are until they rise to the occasion. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Residents of Readyville reflect on surviving the tornado
Bailey saw houses flattened and foundations removed in Readyville.
“From what I understand in this immediate area, everyone is safe and no one has been killed,” Bailey said. “From there we are very happy. Everything else here is material. We will build again. We are a great community. Everything else will heal in time.”
Readyville resident Dan Pfeifer was shocked by the experience.
“I went to the locker room just in time and it was awesome,” Pfeifer said. “I’m waiting for my house to come apart. Not happily, but you can’t say the same to everyone here. It’s bad enough. It’s such a small and historic neighborhood. It will never be the same. .
A storm with a loss in person in your community is far more important than when it’s on TV news, Pfeifer said.
“Thank God no one was seriously injured,” he added. “Hopefully we can all recover.”
The extended family is gathering help at Grandma’s house in Readyville
Cheryl Johnson’s extended family came to clean up the debris in the Readyville home she built in 1969 with her first husband before he died. Pollucius, who had damaged her roof, destroyed the mantle, the ancient ironwork of the patio, where her second husband, who had died two years before, kept all his tools.
“My grandparents owned all this land,” said Johnson, who inherited about eight acres from them. “They gave me one acre to build this house on.”
Johnson, seventy-nine years old, lived in Readyville his entire life.
“This whole community means a lot to me,” he said. “I swam to Readyville Dam. We didn’t know what the dam was.”
Johnson was home alone when her son, Scott Smithson, called her at 1:54 a.m. to tell her to get a safe place in the closet under the stairs.
Then her nephew James Smithson left her home in Murfreesboro and “rushed over here” to spend the rest of the night with her.
Johnson, son of Alan Smithson and daughter of Angie Graham, also came with other family members to help the world until its destruction.
“It’s good,” said Alan Smithson.
Graham said he hated that his stepfather’s large garage was destroyed with tools scattered everywhere.
“Graham, who lives in Murfreesboro. He loved his barn and mowed this big yard, which I’m doing now.”
Pollucis bent two tall metal poles on Pauline Johnson that held hollow pumpkins as nests for purple martens that eat mosquitoes and other bugs.
“Every spring they come at the end of March and leave in July,” Johnson said.
“And they fly to South America,” added his son Alan Smithson.
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Rutherford County provides emergency services to tornado victims
- Rutherford County Highway Department workers and volunteers helped clear the roads.
- Middle Tennessee Electric was restoring power to the perimeter and commercial buildings. Gas companies serving the area were blocking the delivery of gas.
- The firm’s Waste Department director develops strategies to remove waste.
- New Hope Church of Christ at 4296 Murfreesboro Road near Readyville opened the church for victims and first responders to restroom facilities. Volunteers are scheduled to help clean up the wreckage from 8 a.m. Sunday in the church. Volunteers and residents can check out the impacted items and get a bracelet. They should wear work gloves and hard shoes.
- The American Red Cross has opened a shelter at Westside High School at 3714 Murfreesboro Road in Readyville for people in need of evacuation or weather-related assistance.