Nine people died April 27 when a day filled with tornadoes reared its head just hours after dawn.
At approximately 9 a.m., reports of a tornado touchdown in the No Pone Valley sent Bradley County Fire Rescue, Emergency Management, Bradley County Sheriff’s deputies and Medical Service personnel rushing to the aid of victims.
Tim Troutman of the National Weather Service headed toward Bradley County to assess damage and make a determination regarding the size of the tornado which damaged and destroyed homes in the No Pone Valley, causing injury but not death.
That would change as the day progressed.
Bradley County and Cleveland were in the path of one of the deadliest and most destructive tornado-filled days in U.S. history.
The wave of storms would force businesses to close as it knocked out utilities and cellphone coverage, creating chaos for residents and communities across Bradley County.
After the first tornado had passed, the big one was yet to come as the skies cleared and people worked to clear debris and fallen trees, some of which dated pre-Bradley County. It was just the beginning of a day filled with terror and no one knew what to expect as official NWS weather watches, warnings and alerts filled the afternoon.
Facebookers were vigilant.
Troutman, who is warning coordinator meteorologist for the NWS, arrived in the county, made his observations and went to the Cleveland-Bradley County Emergency Management Agency offices located on Guthrie Drive.
A 911 dispatcher had stepped outside to observe weather conditions, returning inside with a cellphone photo of a storm which was brewing west of the offices of 911 and CBCEMA.
“Where is this?” Troutman questioned the dispatcher.
The dispatcher told the veteran forecaster the storm was right outside the door.
Troutman looked at the picture and told everyone to take cover. That was around 3 p.m., when an EF-1 tornado struck the Villa Heights area, just west of the 911 and EMA offices.
But what was brewing for the rest of the day would keep residents “hunkering down.”
A storm system in the Southeast had produced an EF-5 tornado in Tuscaloosa, Ala. That was at 4:10 p.m. EST and it was traveling northward. Many Bradley County and other East Tennessee residents, along with people in Northwest Georgia, knew the severity of the situation by watching The Weather Channel, cable news and local TV meteorologists.
The storm system’s power and destructive force would grow and wane as it traveled its deadly path through Alabama, Georgia and into Hamilton and Bradley County, its winds of death and destruction finally dying in Northeast Tennessee.
The twister had respawned and was determined to be an EF-4 storm after passing through Alabama into Northwest Georgia and extreme northeast Hamilton County.
A major portion of the city of Ringgold, Ga., was destroyed before the tornado began to tear a path into Apison and Bradley County but ... another tornado had passed through in the areas of Old Chattanooga Pike, Spring Place Road, Oak Grove and Benton Pike areas.
Emergency Responders found it difficult to maneuver through the debris and the “big one” was yet to come.
Trees were downed in the aforementioned areas. Homes were damaged or destroyed.
The landscape of hundreds of years had changed dramatically within seconds.
A dusky evening approached as business was shut down. Electricity was out to most Bradley County and city of Cleveland residents. Fuel was needed by first responding emergency agencies and volunteers who had been working to help clear the paths to communities.
The first person to die in Bradley County was attributed to this storm.
Robert King, 77, of an Old Alabama Road address had been clearing debris from the storm.
As darkness approached, watches and warnings grew, keeping residents with an eye to the sky.
The respawned Tuscaloosa storm made its approach ... somewhat off the radar screen.
It reached into the extreme southwest portion of the Leadmine Valley and traveled on the ground, never lifting.
Evelyn Johnson and Lisa Pack were possibly the first two fatalities from that storm. It moved over the ridges into the Blue Springs Valley, killing Tami and Chase Glasgow, Kandice Satterfield, Rhonda Smith and Eva Catlett.
As the black wall at least “five stories high and sounding like 10 freight trains” (as described by survivor Bryan Yarber, Lisa Pack’s brother) moved on, it made its way toward Bell Road, Archer Lane and Dalton Pike.
Emergency responders struggled to get to victims in the Blue Springs and Leadmine areas.
The deadly wall continued into the Spring Place Road area again, then struck Bates Pointe and Randolph Samples Road, jumping across Highway 64 and destroying homes in Willbrook.
Another life would be claimed as the tornado moved on.
Tommy Evans died as the tornado ripped through his home, then moved on to Chatata Valley, changing the landscape of centuries of farming and lumber production.
For the first time in the history of the CBCEMA, the Emergency Operations Center was activated and remained that way as rescue and recovery efforts got under way.
Local department heads and government officials along with cleanup contractors continued to monitor recovery operations as the early stages of disaster recovery began.