Hillsboro tornado confirmed as EF-2

The tornado that hit the Hillsboro area of Coffee County early Tuesday morning has been classified EF-2 by the National Weather Service, according to Allen Lendley, director of Coffee County Emergency Management Agency (EMA).

An EF-2 tornado produces winds with speed of 111 to 135 mph.

The tornado swept across the area about 1:15 a.m. With a track 40 miles long and 500 yards wide, the tornado came from Franklin County, through the southern edge of Coffee County and onto Grundy County, according to the National Weather Service.

Multiple tornadoes struck Middle Tennessee after dark on Nov. 5-6. The storms killed a person and injured at least two others in Tennessee, knocking down trees and leaving thousands without power.

Officials with the National Weather Service will continue to conduct surveys in the coming days to determine exactly how many tornadoes touched down during this event.

At this time, the EF-2 tornado that hit Christiana is the strongest tornado, with winds 135 mph, to strike Middle Tennessee since Dec. 23, 2015, according to the National Weather Service.

Officials with the National Weather Service arrived in Coffee County on Wednesday to assess the damages in the area and determine the strength of the tornado.

“They look at the damage the tornado has caused, and they determine [the scale] based on that,” Lendley said.

“It takes more wind to break hardwood trees like oak and hickory. They also look at the structures, and the devastation and damage of the structures. For example, a brick structure is a lot harder to damage than a mobile home.”

 

Damage

In Coffee County, in the area around Prairie Plains Road, Rutledge Hill Road and Betsy Willis Road, seven houses have been damaged significantly and several barns have been destroyed, said Lendley.

Grundy and Franklin counties experienced more extensive damage, because the affected areas in those counties were more populated said Lendley.

 “Our next step is to start gathering monetary impacts, such responder time that was spent on the tornado, the monetary damage that was caused through the power lines and what it is going to cost to put that back up,” Lendley said. “All of those numbers will have to be combined statewide.”

The state has to meet a $9-million monetary impact in order to qualify for a presidential declaration, said Lendley.

A presidential declaration would free up money from the federal government to assist in repairs to homes, utilities and infrastructure, as well as provide reimbursement to county agencies that racked up overtime hours during the initial impact hours and the days following the tornado.

If the state as a whole qualifies for the federal funds, the money will be distributed to the counties that meet their monetary impact requirements, said Lendley. For Coffee County to qualify to receive funds, the damages have to exceed $170,000, according to Lendley.

“If the state gets a declaration, it doesn’t necessarily mean we will,” he said. “We have to meet our threshold, based on our population. We will know that the next couple of weeks.”

If Coffee Count meets the threshold, the federal funds will cover 75 percent of the overtime costs, the utility costs. The county will still be responsible for the remaining 25 percent.

Elena Cawley can be reached by email at ecawley @tullahomanews.com.