Historically, those five weeks prior are somewhat an anomaly. A La Nina/El Nino transition was one of the elements involved in setting the weather pattern which became a trend toward the end of March 2011.
Heavy snows prior to that and brutally cold temperatures set the pace through the winter months.
Tim Troutman, warning coordinator meteorologist for the National Weather Service, was on the ground in Bradley County shortly after the first tornado struck the No Pone Valley the morning of April 27.
Troutman was alerted to a trend which included the fact that for each week prior, severe weather warnings had been issued.
Troutman attributed the severe weather alerts to building daytime temperatures and cool nights — a combination which proved to be devastating.
Each week through the month of April, the daytime temperatures would build, then fall.
In late February, a Polk County resident died when high winds caused a tree to fall on his home.
On a Monday in late March, the first severe storm warning for the area was issued. The following week, severe weather watches and warnings were issued. That was a Sunday.
The next week, a Saturday was greeted with weather warnings, then a Friday the following week, then a Thursday — each warning was beginning to show more intensity and the Tornado Probability Index increased.
The watch and warning events had taken a step back a day each week. Then came the tornado outbreak.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011:
- 9:33 a.m. — A mobile home and several homes were reportedly hit by a tornado which was calculated and classified as an EF-1. Injuries were reported, homes were off their foundations and trees littered the valley. The residents of Bradley County and the city of Cleveland would have numerous watches which were upgraded to warnings throughout the day. Troutman arrived in Bradley County to assess damage and classify the first tornado.
- 3:21 p.m. — A twister was photographed at the Bradley County Fire Rescue headquarters in downtown Cleveland. The storm produced an EF-1 tornado which hit southwest Bradley County and the Freewill Road/Villa Drive area, ripping off roofs and downing trees and collapsing utilities. Responders worked to clear massive trees from roadways and Utilities began their task to restore power.
Robert King, 77, an Old Alabama Road resident, died shortly after while attempting to clear downed trees.
- 6:27 p.m. — Tornado No. 3 strikes a portion of southwest Bradley County and travels northeast toward Highway 64/Durkee Road and the Oak Grove/Michigan Avenue communities. Trees are downed as well as utilities and this storm was rated an EF-1. Structures are damaged. The next few hours would prove to be deadly. Social networking, TV and radio were keeping residents informed. Emergency first responders from every agency were running low on fuel. Power was out to most of the city and county. Brian Collins of Collins Oil Co. opened his pumps to fill response vehicles with diesel and gasoline.
- 8:41 p.m. — Wave 4 struck near the same area, but originated farther southwest, toward Dalton Pike.
- 9:15 p.m. — An EF-4 tornado originated from one of the multiple storm systems which had produced deadly tornadoes in Alabama, struck Ringgold, Ga., then traveled into Hamilton County/Apison before making its continuing deadly trek into the Leadsmen Valley, Blue Springs, Dalton Pike, Spring Place Road, Willbrook and Benton Pike areas. The path of death and destruction was approximately 35 miles long and claimed the lives of Evelyn Johnson and Lisa Pack in the Leadmine Valley, Rhonda Smith on Gentry Lane, Chase Glasgow and Tami Glasgow on Blue Springs Road, along with Eva Catlett and Kandice Satterfield on Blue Springs Lane as well as Tommy Evans at his Old Powerline Road residence, according to reports.
One year later, Bradley County continues to recover from April 27, 2011, and an early March storm which also produced a tornado.
Nashville songwriter Jamie Higdon wrote a song for Bradley County and all of the tornado survivors. He debuted the song at the first fundraising event just two weeks after the deadly tornadoes.
“It was a day — we won’t soon forget. I heard the sirens and held my breath. The sky was darkened, and the lightning flashed — and my heart jumped with each and every crash. When it was over ... I took a look around — pieces of my life were all that I found. I know this won’t last forever. We can rebuild again. Through the wind ... and the rain ... our hope still remains ... and we are still here. We’re still standing ... here. In our darkest hour, we will find a way to shine ... just as the morning sun — we will rise. This won’t last forever.” Copyright Jamie Higdon Music.