The National Weather Service in Nashville has now upgraded the Rinnie tornado on March 3 from EF-1 to EF-2. The upgrade comes from additional analysis of satellite data (land scarring), as well as photographs I was able to take of the damage on Catoosa Wildlife Management Area. That wildlife management area was closed to the public in the days following the tornado, as part of their regularly scheduled closing to protect wildlife when hunting season is not open.
Catoosa opened for turkey hunters to scout on March 23. I was able to get over there the next Saturday and get some pictures. The damage was absolutely incredible and reminded me of the last EF-2 that hit the southern end of Rinnie in 2012. Many of us suspected the damage was bad, but even I was surprised by this level of timber damage.
Considering how fast the storm was moving, around 60 mph, this means the tornado strengthened into a strong tornado just seconds after leaving more populated areas of Rinnie. The core of the storm moved over Bear Creek Road, from the cell phone tower to points eastward. Had the tornado shown the same intensity in Rinnie as in Catoosa, there is no doubt in my mind that several homes would have been destroyed, with the likelihood of injuries/fatalities, especially considering this storm occurred at 2:30 in the morning. Let us all take the time to be thankful that we are studying tornado damage to trees, and not to homes.
Remarkably, debris from Baxter was found in both Rinnie and Clarkrange. A residence on Bear Creek Road found pictures, which were returned to the family they belonged to. One of the people in the pictures actually lost their life in the Baxter tornado. A Putnam County car title was found in Clarkrange. My uncle found a piece of vinyl siding on his farm right behind my house.
Damage from the Creason Place on Catoosa can be found in the pictures below, taken by me. Notice the phenomenal damage to the forested area. Based on this damage, wind estimates have now been risen to 115 mph, making this tornado an EF-2.
This severe weather event was quite remarkable in so many ways. Never before has the state experienced a tornado outbreak (defined as 6 or more tornadoes) from ONE supercell. The storm tracked from West TN to East TN, producing strong to violent tornadoes along it’s path. The 60-mile path length through the Nashville area is the longest tornado track in Middle TN history. This storm broke a lot of records, many of which we hope we never see broken again.
Pictured below are the tornadoes associated with the March 3 supercell. The EF-2 in Rinnie is yet to be added to this map. Interestingly, the EF-0 in southern Putnam County likely cut off the inflow into the Cookeville tornado, causing that violent tornado to suddenly lift, just before impacting Cookeville Regional Medical Center and downtown Cookeville.
Below is the official National Weather Service write-up on the Rinnie/Catoosa tornado.
“The tornado touched down near the intersection of Highway 127 and Atkins Road where trees were uprooted and one single wide mobile home sustained roof damage. The tornado moved northeast where it crossed Smith Road. Two outbuildings were destroyed, two houses sustained shingle damage, one power pole was pushed over, and approximately 20 trees were uprooted. The tornado then took an eastward track just south of Beaty Road where more trees were uprooted. Two more outbuildings were destroyed at the end of Beaty Road. The tornado continued east-southeast where trees were uprooted on Cool Springs Road. The tornado continued east-southeastward through the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area where thousands of additional trees were snapped and uprooted. The tornado reached maximum width and strength as it crossed Myatt Creek Rd and Turner Creek Rd in the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area. The tornado weakened as it approached the Morgan County border before lifting in Morgan County.”