Be prepared in the event of bad weather

  • Published
  • By Mark Anderson
  • Arnold AFB Emergency Management

While the March 3 storm and wind damage around middle Tennessee reminded many people of the hazards of storms and tornados in this area, for people personally impacted, these events leave indelible images burned into their memory that will last a lifetime.

Losing power for a couple of days due to downed powerlines and a damaged electrical service to my house are certainly minor compared to people who have lost their homes or loved ones in storms, but it does remind us of how impactful storms can be and how a little preparation in advance of an approaching storm can go a long way.

Weather forecasting has gotten incredibly good in the last several years; and the high winds that followed the cold front on March 3 were no exception. The National Weather Service’s Nashville and Huntsville offices both issued high wind warnings that day, with Huntsville’s 5 a.m. situation report even including the statement: ”A High Wind Warning is in effect beginning at 6:00 AM and continuing through 6:00 PM due to the potential for non-thunderstorm/gradient wind gusts up to 65 MPH with locally higher gusts possible. – Will likely result in power outages and downed trees due to saturated soils.”

In my part of northern Franklin County, that statement was phenomenally accurate. That is exactly what happened in my neighborhood, as well as many other parts of Franklin and Coffee counties about 1 a.m. after the storm came through despite a clear blue sky.

While this weather event will fade with time, it certainly reminded me of the Nov. 6, 2018, tornado event in Franklin and Coffee counties. During that event, I woke up at about 1 a.m. with the phone ringing and simultaneous noise extremely loud and incredibly close. The noise only lasted about 30 seconds. The phone call was my oldest daughter telling us that a tornado was near our house. Getting up and going outside with a flashlight because the power had gone out, there were large trees down on both ends of my house, a lot of small branches in the yard and on the roof but, remarkably, no damage to the house, garage or cars parked in the driveway.

About 15 minutes after waking up, the phone rang again. It was my youngest daughter’s husband saying that their house, about 7 miles as the crow flies from mine, had been hit by the tornado. Since my house was okay, I started driving to help my son-in-law but only got about one-quarter of a mile before seeing the road was blocked by downed powerlines. I turned around and tried to go through Decherd instead of Estill Springs, but that road was also blocked by downed trees and powerlines draped through an intersection.

Shortly before daybreak, I finally got to my youngest daughter’s house. All five enormous oak and pecan trees once standing in the yard were all on the ground. The NWS storm team that came later in the day included this damage in their report: “The tornado rapidly intensified as it crossed AEDC Road. The survey team found widespread damage to homes and hardwood trees in the Penile Hill and Allred Roads area. Homes here lost most, if not all, of their roof material, and large 3- to 4-foot diameter trees were snapped. The worst home damage occurred here, with walls collapsing on a well-built single-family home.”

The entire roof was gone on my daughter’s home, and there were pieces of sheetrock ceiling, insulation and bricks scattered throughout the house. My son-in-law’s three-quarter-ton diesel truck was turned sideways in the driveway and was under large branches from the downed trees. The pontoon boat and camper belonging to his neighbors Jim and Judy Keith, were both destroyed. My son-in-law told me about pulling the Keiths out of a window because both the front and back doors were blocked and damaged. The Keiths’ home was the “well-built single-family home” referenced in the NWS report.

The Keiths were okay, but their home had sustained irreparable damage. The Keiths are both affiliated with AEDC, as retired Master Sgt. Jim Keith worked in the Air Force Personnel Office in the early- to mid-1980s, and Judy worked at the Base Exchange for 18 years until her retirement in 2002.

Along with the homes belonging to my youngest daughter and the Keiths, two other homes in this area were damaged beyond repair and subsequently demolished.

These events, while traumatic in their immediate aftermath, illustrate the need for adequate pre-planning to be able to overcome Mother Nature’s wrath and persevere. Pay attention to weather warnings and take precautions, whether that is sheltering in the event of a tornado warning or securing loose objects in a forecast wind event.

The Air Force Emergency Management Office monitors weather forecast from multiple sources and will put out precautionary weather statements to the base populous when conditions warrant.

More information is available on emergency preparedness in the event of severe weather at and More information is also available from the AEDC Office of Emergency Management at