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Sheriff: search and recovery continues

Posted on Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Sheriff Murray Blackwelder addresses the media during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Sheriff Murray Blackwelder addresses the media during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

The tornado that killed two people and spread so much damage across southeastern Lincoln County last night was two miles wide and cut a path from the state line to the county’s northeastern corner, said Sheriff Murray Blackwelder in a press conference this afternoon.

“We do not know of anyone missing but hope to have that confirmed by late tonight,” he said, explaining that emergency responders are continuing to check homes severely damaged by the twister.

There were two people killed here in Lincoln County, he said, identifying them as John and Karen Prince, ages 60 and 44, respectively. The couple’s home on Tipton Road was one of 25 in the area destroyed. Another seven people were injured and treated at Lincoln Medical Center overnight and into the morning, but none of those injuries were believed to be significant.

Lincoln County remains under a tornado watch until 10 p.m. tonight, but Blackwelder said he does not believe the anticipated weather presents as great a threat as Monday evening’s.

As to the total number of homes impacted by the worst of either two or three tornadoes that came through the area Monday evening remains undetermined, the sheriff said it is difficult to discern, since everything between in the most devastating tornado’s path sustained some damage.

“We know you want to help,” said Blackwelder, urging people to stay out of the impacted areas as the search and recovery effort continues, adding that the time for assistance will come as the area begins its restorative work.

A command and information center will move to the Parks City Baptist Church parking lot on the Huntsville Highway tomorrow morning – “No one will be allowed into the area without an arm band,” he said. “There will be a curfew enforced beginning tomorrow night.”

Residents, as well as properly credentialed volunteers, will be allowed into the area after 8 a.m. tomorrow morning. Then at 6 p.m. all non-residents will need to leave the area.

Authorities received the first call about possible damage at 5:15 p.m. Monday evening, said the sheriff, noting that responders were dispatched to the Vanntown area. Shortly after that, another call came in about a possible tornado touchdown in the Flintville area. While authorities were responding there, another call came in from Smith Mill Road.

“Our responders cut their way into the area and began search and rescue,” he said. “Everyone worked hard to get to those residents … It likes like the tornado hit at Smith Mill Road and then made a loop around and hit South Lincoln School – it’s beyond repair, and many homes are damaged and beyond repair.”

Lincoln County, Fayetteville City and Riverside Christian Academy schools will be closed again tomorrow, when Dr. Wanda Shelton, director of the Lincoln County School System, is expected to announce a plan addressing how and when school will resume for that system’s students.

“We want to thank everyone who has been involved,” said Peggy Bevels, county mayor, as the press conference got underway, going on to ask for everyone’s cooperation as well as prayers for those who lost their homes in the devastation.

“We have had the cooperation of every agency,” said the sheriff, thanking the National Weather Service, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Tennessee Highway Patrol, the state Dept. of Corrections, National Guard, Red Cross, Lincoln County Emergency Management Agency, Lincoln County Volunteer Fire Department, Fayetteville Police Department, Lincoln County Posse. “We’ve also had the assistance of the Giles and Franklin County sheriff’s departments.”