Sunday Story: The Beatty Swamps Tornado Disaster

I hope each and every one of you are having the best Mother’s Day. Most of the rain should move out by noon, leaving us with cloudy skies and some isolated rain showers through the evening. Better weather awaits us for the new work week. Just in time of the weekend to be over, right? ha

This week’s Sunday Story deals with weather that brought a disaster unlike anything the Upper Cumberlands had ever seen prior to 1933. It’s the stuff weather legends are made of.

Remembering the Beatty Swamps Tornado

The worst tornado disaster to ever strike the Upper Cumberlands hit on the tenth of May in 1933. The tornado touched down in northern Overton County, just after midnight, and stayed on the ground for 20 miles. The twister lifted near Byrdstown.

The community of Beatty Swamps was hardest hit, located just six miles north of Livingston. Thirty-five people lost their lives there and every home was said to have been destroyed. This is the second deadliest tornado in Middle Tennessee history.

In many instances, the tornado destroyed homes and completely swept away the debris. Even farm machinery housed in barns was swept away. Winds may have exceeded 200 mph within the storm.

The twister zig-zagged its way through northern Overton County. The destruction was unlike anything anyone around here had never seen before. The reporters at this time described this tornado as something that happens in Kansas, not in Middle Tennessee.

The twister was rated F-4 on the old Fujita Scale. Today, it might have been assigned an EF-5 rating with the new enhanced Fujita scale. That’s the highest damage rating assigned to tornadoes.

As with any violent tornado, there were plenty of oddities. A square of floor linoleum driven into a tree, a two-by-four plank driven completely through an automobile tire, a piece of straw driven into a fruit tree. In one instance, a chicken house with two sitting hens inside was destroyed. The two hens were found under piles of debris, sitting on their nests without a single broken egg!

Neighboring communities rushed to render aid and help folks recover and rebuild. One reporter commented that, “They are stooping , with worn-out tools, to build again…with something of a quiet strength which must have been inherited from their native hills.”

5-day outlook (9)

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