Officials with the National Weather service are expected to visit the area on Wednesday to determine the strength of a tornado that touched down in the southern edge of Coffee County early Tuesday morning. Although no injuries were reported, the storm did cause some damage to structures and trees, including this downed tree in the Rutledge Hills/Betsy Willis Road area of the county. Coffee County Emergency Management Director Allen Lendley said although an official determination on the strength of the storm is still pending, he expects it will be classified as an EF-1, which would place the wind speeds in the 86 to 110 mph range.

A tornado hit the Hillsboro area of Coffee County early Tuesday morning, according to Allen Lendley, director of Coffee County Emergency Management Agency (EMA).

No injuries have been reported in the area.

“In our county, we haven’t had any reports of injuries related to the tornado,” Lendley said.

Severe storms swept across the state in the early-morning hours of Nov. 5 and have killed a person and injured at least two more in other areas of the state, knocking down trees and leaving thousands without power, according to officials.

Officials with the National Weather Service are still working on determining the track and strength of the storms here, according to Lendley.

“The tornado came through Franklin County, at the southern edge of Coffee County and onto Grundy County,” Lendley said.

 “There was a [touch down] about 1:30 this [Tuesday] morning, south of Hillsboro, almost to the Grundy County line,” he added.

 Although Lendley confirmed that a tornado did come aground in Coffee County this week, the strength of the storm is still being determined.

“Because we had a lot of tornadoes in Middle Tennessee last night, the weather service is not going to get to us until tomorrow [Wednesday],” he said. “They are now working the northern end of the state.”


Damage in the area

As of Tuesday morning, EMA officials were at the initial phases of evaluating the harm. 

“There are several houses south of Hillsboro that have been damaged,” Lendley said. “But we just now started our damage assessment.”

The number of impacted structures in the areas was not clear by press time. More details about the damage throughout the state and in the county will be available on Wednesday.

While the strength of the tornado has not yet been determined officially, Lendley said he expects it would be assessed as EF-1. 

“Just guessing, but it was probably EF1, at least,” Lendley said.

An EF-1 tornado produces estimated wind speeds in the 86 to 110 mph range, according to the National Weather Service.

Several houses and barns have been damaged in the area.

“We have seen a couple of barns that have been destroyed,” Lendley said. “We have seen quite a few houses with torn roofs, where the [winds] have blown the tin off the roof, the shingles off the roof.”

There is a lot of debris in the fields, he added.

“We just started our damage assessment off of Rutledge Hill Road, and we are working our way around through the county roads in this area,” he said.

The entire EMA staff has been involved in the process.

“There are three of us doing damage assessment,” Lendley said.

In addition to Lendley, Deputy Director Matt Aussiker and Operations Officer Brandon Gunn have been on duty since Monday night.

While the tornado has wreaked havoc in Coffee County, Lendley expressed relief and said the situation could have been worse.

“We fared better than Franklin County,” he said. “Franklin County got hit a lot worse than we did.”

It had not been officially determined by press time if the tornado that swept across Franklin County was the same one that made landfall in Coffee County.

“Right now, we are not sure if it was the same tornado,” he said. “But it appears it was the same tornado. It was probably a little bit stronger when it was at Franklin County. But we won’t know the track or the strength until [Wednesday]. “


TUA providing support

According to Tullahoma Utilities Authority’s Facebook page, the authority has dispatched five line workers “with two bucket trucks and two digger derrick trucks” to help Duck River Electric Membership Corporation restore power to areas of rural Franklin County that were hit by the tornado.

Elena Cawley can be reached by email at