Twenty-six years ago this evening, a devastating F-3 tornado tore across the southwest part of Cumberland County, lifting after it had rampaged parts of the Tansi community. As bad as the damage was, there were miraculously no fatalities. That could be due to the twister happening in the daylight, as well as the incredible warning lead times given by the National Weather Service. The twister occurred around 5:00 pm in the evening. It was the first time in my life that I heard the term “supercell” used to describe a storm that was in our county.
The map below shows the path of the tornado. That’s the orange line you see.
The official storm report filed by the NWS reads, “The tornado first touched down in the southwest part of Cumberland County and moved northeast. Two businesses were destroyed. Eleven homes and 14 mobiles homes were destroyed. Many other homes were damaged. One house had a gas leak in it prompting emergency management officials to evacuate a handful of nearby residents. Other homes had roof damage. Numerous trees and power lines were knocked down.”
Sam Shamburger, Lead Forecaster for the Nashville NWS noted that, “No NWS storm survey was conducted for this tornado. The storm report’s description of this massive, major tornado is erroneous, as radar data and satellite imagery from Google Earth show this tornado began along the White/Cumberland County border west of Tarkiln Ford Road and moved east-northeast across Flat Rock Road, Old Ross Road, Meadow Park Lake and City Lake Road before lifting east of Dunbar Road around halfway between Lake Tansi and Crossville. The path of damage on satellite imagery from Google Earth is also much wider than listed by the storm report, and appears to be up to 1000 yards wide near Meadow Lake Park where tens of thousands of trees were blown down. Finally, the time of the tornado was corrected based on radar data.”
The fact that a storm survey was never done is very surprising. I’m not sure what on earth led to that decision.
It was an interesting evening, to say the least. Many of you may recall that the tornado hit during Class Night for the graduating seniors. That event was being held at Martin, if I remember right, and everyone was told to take cover in the hallways. An unforgettable Class Night, for sure.
I still remember driving down Lantana Road in the days afterward and being in shock. I had never seen a tornado do such damage on the plateau. Many folks compared it to the 1974 tornadoes that ravaged the plateau 21 years earlier.
I wish I could say it would be another 20 years before another devastating twister would strike but I can’t. November of 2002 came with yet another massive F-3 tornado to the Tansi community. That twister would take four lives.
For those of us who grew up in the 80s, we enjoyed a decade free of tornadoes on the plateau. Then, the BIG hailstorm struck in August of 1990 and that seemed to set a trend for a more active weather. March of 1993 would bring the Blizzard of the Century. Then 1995 would bring the big twister to Tansi that is the subject of this post. Then, another big tornado hit in November 2002. The year 2012 would bring another deadly EF-2 tornado to Rinnie. And who can forget the BIG ice storm in February 2015? Lately, 2020 brought another EF-2 to Rinnie that thankfully didn’t cause any injuries (though that would have been a different story if it had hit the heart of the community).
Weather is certainly more active than it used to be here and it can’t all be blamed on population increasing. The storms in recent years have packed quite the punch and we’ve even seen folks lose their lives in some of those storms. Will the active weather patterns continue? Will our weather become even more active in the coming years? Well, that remains to be seen.
For now, let’s enjoy the peace and quite of the weather we have tonight.