High winds from a severe thunderstorm, or maybe even a tornado, caused substantial damage to several homes and apartment complexes in the North Shore Drive area north of the Chickamauga Dam in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The calls began pouring into 911 Communications around 6:50 p.m. when a possible tornado caused a multi-vehicle pile-up on the dam.
Seconds after the wrecks occurred on the dam, the storm hit the construction site at the Chickamauga Lock, tearing apart construction trailers, ripping up traffic signs and damaging equipment. From there, the storm hit the apartments at Lake Shore on the Hill, and several houses on Queen Aire Lane. Large trees were uprooted, windows were broken, tree limbs fell into houses and power lines were ripped away by the high winds. The roof over a deck at one house was lifted up and thrown about 75 yards away into the driveway of a neighbors house. Remarkably, no injuries were reported.
Chattanooga firefighters have spent the last few hours covering the damaged roofs with tarps to keep the rain from causing even more damage. Fire Chief Randy Parker said six homes on Queen Aire Lane had significant damage. One of those homes was deemed unsafe for habitation by the building inspector’s office. Nearby at Lake Shore on the Hill, buildings “B” and “C” were damaged significantly enough to warrant evacuation. Battalion Chief Winston Shields said the buildings were not safe for habitation, and electrical service to the buildings was cut off to prevent any accidental fires. The evacuation involved approximately 50 apartment units.
Meantime, the Chattanooga Chapter of the American Red Cross has a team of volunteers on the scene, and they have set up a shelter at the Hixson United Methodist Church. Hamilton County Emergency Management is assisting with the shelter operation. EPB repair crews were also canvassing the area, working hard to restore power to the neighborhood. Chattanooga police said they would have officers on the scene throughout the night in the event any of the storm victims needed help.
The assessment of damages from this storm will continue through tomorrow, when daylight will likely reveal damage not noticed by fire, police, and EMS responders tonight. Photos and video taken by Chattanooga firefighters tend to suggest that a tornado was involved with this damage, but experts with the National Weather Service will be the ones to officially determine whether or not it was a tornado.