Severe weather causes damage in Northwest TN
On Friday night, December 10, through the early morning hours of Saturday morning, December 11, severe weather resulted in damages in Newbern as well as to property around Reelfoot Lake in Lake County and the town of Samburg in Obion County.
The devastation, caused by tornadoes, prompted a visit from Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to Lake and Obion counties Saturday. Dyer County’s neighbors to the north also confirmed numerous injuries and a total of 3 fatalities from the two counties combined.
Dyer County, more specifically the City of Newbern, sustained damage, though it was not as extensive as what had occurred around Reelfoot Lake. Local officials confirmed a gas station was destroyed in Newbern, in addition to damage at Newbern TCAT, downed utility poles, and damage to personal property.
The National Weather Service of Memphis on Sunday evening, Dec. 12, said preliminary data suggested at least an EF-3 tornado struck the Newbern to Dresden areas of West Tennessee; however, the rating is subject to change as additional data is acquired.
“It was definitely a tornado,” Dyer County Emergency Management Director and Fire Chief James Medling said, referring to Newbern. “Newbern was the start of the system that got Kenton and Dresden. The east side of Newbern had damage at Little General, and I believe the back wing at TCAT. There was also some farm damage on Blakenship Road, but compared to everyone around us I think it certainly could have been a lot worse. I think the other counties around us caught the brunt of the storm.”
Medling confirmed Dyer County did not sustain any fatalities due to the weather.
Newbern Mayor Pam Mabry added, “We have shingle damage, things blown across town, for instance trashcans blown across the road, limbs down, and things like that. Little General is destroyed. The church across from TCAT had the brick blown off the back of it. A car was blown off the road in that area. TCAT has some extensive damage to their roof and some of their new computers were ruined by rain. Other than that, Newbern fared pretty well than some of the other areas around us.”
Mabry added Hwy. 77 had utility poles damaged and noted JEA (Jackson Energy Authority) and TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) assisted the City in setting new poles and running lines.
She also reported 4 individuals sought medical attention and no fatalities within the City of Newbern.
In Lake County, Mayor Denny Johnson confirmed a tornado touched down in the county resulting with damage near the Wynnburg community, Sunkist Beach, and the Bluebank Park area of Reelfoot Lake.
According to the National Weather Service in Memphis, the tornado that struck Lake and Obion counties had caused damage in Monette and Leachville, Arkansas as well as the Missouri bootheel prior to crossing the Mississippi River.
“We discovered it was an F-4 tornado. It was on the ground for about 300 miles,” Mayor Johnson stated. “When it crossed over the river, it crossed between Wynnburg and Ridgely, then made a line toward Sunkist Village and the Lakeview [Dining Room] and Cypress Point area [of Reelfoot Lake]. It then went over to the Samburg area.”
Johnson said Lake County had 2 fatalities and added 1 individual had been reported missing. Additionally, he said Lake County had 21 injuries or slight injuries, which were treated at Lake County High School.
“This is devastating to our county,” said Mayor Johnson. “Our hearts go to everyone who has been affected.”
He also offered his thanks to the first responders within his county and those who traveled from other areas.
“I can’t believe all of the help we have received here,” said Johnson.
He noted those in Lake County offering services included Madison County Fire/Rescue, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Lake County Rescue Squad, Lake County EMS, Lake County Sheriff’s Department, Dyer County Sheriff’s Department, Dyer County Medical Center EMS, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Lake County Highway Department, Troy Police Department, Hardin County Fire/Rescue, TEMA, and the American Red Cross.
Benny McGuire, Mayor of Obion County, said the damage his county received was within Samburg and Lake Drive, just south of the town. He confirmed the same tornado that touched down in Lake County caused the damage in and around Samburg.
“We don’t know the full extent of the damage in Samburg,” Mayor McGuire stated Saturday evening. “It’s probably going to be to the extent of Lake County, or probably more. It looked like it affected more houses over there [in Samburg] and there was a trailer park that was demolished. It’s very unfortunate for the people. We feel sorry for them, and we’re trying to do everything we can do to help. We’re setting up a place where they can sleep tonight and food is being brought to the churches. The Red Cross is here, so we’re very pleased with that.”
McGuire reported Obion County had 1 fatality.
Obion County Emergency Management Director Danny Jowers added, “There were some serious injuries in the area [of Samburg] where the fatality occurred. Some of the injuries were minor and some were serious, but most of the injuries reported in Samburg were very minor.”
Governor Bill Lee visited Lake County Saturday afternoon and met with local and state leaders at Cypress Point Resort at Reelfoot Lake, located just off of State Route 21 southeast of Tiptonville.
He spoke with Johnson, McGuire, State Senator Ed Jackson, State Representative Rusty Grills, Dyer County Mayor Chris Young, many of the first responders on the scene, and property owners in the area.
After speaking with others present and viewing the damage in the area, Gov. Lee took a moment to share his thoughts with The State Gazette.
“In just a minute, lives are changed and lives are lost,” stated Gov. Lee. “The devastation is hard to describe, and the fact that people’s lives, in large part, has been destroyed here is very hard to watch. I have been very encouraged, though, to see the first responders, law enforcement, and the people in the community already here working on the clean up and beginning that difficult journey of recovery.”
Acknowledging the damage in Samburg, Lee said, “We started in Nashville and flew over a tornado site in Dickson County, one in Stewart County, then came here, which is by far the worst damage. We saw Samburg by helicopter.”
When asked about the areas in Lake and Obion counties being declared a disaster area, the governor said, “I spoke with the President today with governors of five different states. We all were on a call, and he encouraged us to pursue that declaration. We, obviously, have to do a little assessment, and we will be doing that as soon as possible.”
Governor Lee also extended his prayers to those affected in Dyer County, specifically those in Newbern, as well as those affected across the state.
“I’m aware of the damage in Newbern. There was a lot of damage and loss all across the state. Right now, we’re really figuring everything out this afternoon [Saturday]. Our teams are working. TEMA is on the ground. Disaster recovery is already underway so we start rebuilding. We see hope in the response of Tennesseans reaching out already to help their neighbors. That’s how we will get through this – one another working together.”
Following a roughly 45-minute visit, Gov. Lee departed to view damage in other areas across West Tennessee.