'Hit the basement': Hawkins EMA director not optimistic about federal aid for storm damage

Jeff Bobo • Jan 17, 2020 at 12:45 PM

CHURCH HILL – Alan and Evelyn Kidd were having supper in their home in Hawkins County Saturday evening when they heard the train coming and “hit the basement”.

The Kidds live on Burlington Avenue, not far form West Carters Valley Road, in an area north of Mount Carmel that the National Weather Service says was hardest hit in Hawkins County by Saturday’s powerful storm, and among the hardest hit statewide.

Officially the wind hit 80 mph in the area of Carolina Street and Burlington Avenue behind the Pizza Plus and Valley Food Mart businesses on West Carters Valley Road.

Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency director Jamie Miller told the Times News Thursday, however, that based on photographic evidence of the damage, the National Weather Service is estimating that some gusts topped 100 mph.

The NWS hasn't determined if it was a straight line downburst or a tornado, but the Kidd’s know it sounded like a train.

“I heard the train, and we hit the basement”

Tornado survivors often compare the sound to a train, and that's what the Kidd family heard Saturday evening — with a little telltale hail sprinkled in for good measure.

“We were sitting at the table eating supper, and it wasn't really doing anything like thunder,” Mrs. Kidd told the Times News Thursday. “Then all of a sudden Alan says, it sounds like rocks hitting the front door. My daughter who teaches school had been in a tornado at her school, so she knows what it sounds like, and it wasn't but a few second later she said, 'Hit the basement'.”

Mrs. Kidd added, “I heard the train, and we hit the basement, and then that was it. It was over very fast, and then it was very quiet. I don't know about a tornado, but our back yard looks awful. There's trees down, and they've been putting up the wire, and put a new pole in. Every tree in our backyard are twisted.”

The Kidds lost a lot of trees and were without power four days after the storm but were spared structural damage to their home.

“All the trees luckily missed the structures”

Miller told the Times News Thursday that three residences sustained significant roof damage as a result of Saturday's storm, and all three were within a half mile of the Pizza Plus restaurant on West Carters Valley near Mount Carmel.

On Friday Miller is meeting with officials from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency regarding potential federal aid for storm damage.

Miller wasn't optimistic that Hawkins County's damage statistic meet the threshold required to be eligible federal aid.

“As far as the significant damage, there was about three houses there that had pretty significant damage,” Miller said. “Otherwise all the trees luckily missed the structures. There were some storage buildings damaged, but that doesn't count toward the (damage loss) we have to meet at the federal level.”

“Hit as hard as anywhere in the state”

The three damaged houses mainly had a lot of shingles blown off their roof, and one house required plywood on the roof to be replaced as well, Miller said.

“Burlington, Carolina, Waycross and Redwood were the roads that were affected the most, and any of those small roads that are attached to them,” Miller said. “The National Weather Service thinks that the winds in that area was 100 mph that night. They've reported it at 80 mph, but they think the winds were even higher than that. Sustained winds at 80 and they said gusts were probably over 100.”

Miller added, “As far as what it looked like across the state, that little area in Carters Valley got hit as hard as anywhere in the state. Luckily it was just a small area compared to what it could have been, but in that small area there was quite a bit of damage. Lots of trees down.”