Weekend weather bashes Bowling Green, kills 16 in Tennessee

Western and Warren County made it through a weekend of storms relatively unscathed compared to nearby Tennessee.

Tornadoes and violent thunderstorms ravaged 15 Tennessee counties, killed 16 people, injured more than 60 and left in their paths hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage.

In Bowling Green, high winds knocked down trees and power lines, keeping Bowling Green Municipal Utilities crews busy restoring power to dozens of neighborhoods.

High water made some Bowling Green streets impassable for short periods.

“The eastern part of the county was hit the worst,” Warren County Sheriff’s Dispatcher Robbie Taylor said. “We had a barn blow out in the road in Smiths Grove.”

State police reported no deaths or injuries from storms in the eight county area served by the Bowling Green post.

At Western, several dorms were damaged when water flooded the buildings after a strong thunderstorm pounded the city Saturday night.

Water spread into the lobby of Northeast Hall and was also reported in Minton, Southwest, McCormack and Gilbert halls.

Northeast resident assistant Chase Sewell witnessed the flooding of the Northeast lobby.

“I was the RA on call that evening,” Sewell said. “Because of the tornado warnings I wanted to make sure that everything was OK at the front desk.”

Sewell found water seeping into the hall’s doors nearest Grise Hall. It wouldn’t get any better.

“After 10 minutes, over half the lobby was flooded,” he said.

Students in Northeast were warned about the potential flooding and advised to move their belongings off the floors of their rooms. They were also told to put towels under their doors to prevent water from seeping in.

The water was the highest near the building’s connector door, where it went down a hallway and soaked into carpet, Sewell said. Water also saturated into the walls and woodwork of ground floor classrooms in Northeast.

“It took a lot of labor,” Sewell said. “If we wouldn’t have worked all night to get the water out, it would have been worse.”

This is not the first time the directional halls have flooded after a big rain. Southwest flooded earlier in the semester.

Facilities Management Director Doug Ault would not say if the university has any plan to fix the reoccurring problem and referred questions to Pat Hall, project team leader for the Student Life Foundation.

Hall could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Bowling Green was caught Saturday in the northern edge of a long squall line of storm cells lined up one behind the other. The line hammered its way east across Northern and Central Tennessee, said Michael Trapasso, a geography and geology professor at Western who teaches meteorology classes.

“When thunderstorms align themselves, they come by like a wall of thunderstorms rather than individual cells,” he said.

The fact that the heaviest storm cells lined up east to west instead of north to south spared Western, he said.

The killer tornadoes in Tennessee were rare for this late in the year. Tornado season usually extends from March through June for this part of the country, Trapasso said.

Near Clarksville, Tenn., a tornado sheared cables mooring a mobile home to its concrete pad, carried the mobile home 165 feet across Port Royal Road and shattered it, killing the couple asleep inside.

“It literally, when I arrived on the scene, looked like an explosion,” said Deputy Ted Denny, spokesman for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

The only structural damage the storms caused in Montgomery was to the lone mobile home, Denny said. The only people hurt or killed there were the couple inside, Dennis Tooby, 45, and his wife Karen, a teacher.

Meanwhile in Bowling Green, the storm interrupted an Alpha Gamma Delta sorority dance at West Kentucky Barbecue for about 10 minutes.

“Everything was pretty much calm,” said Erlanger junior Krissy Dahl, an AGD member who attended the dance.

The manager herded dancers to the center of the restaurant until the worst of the storm blew over. Then, the party continued.

Reach Dave Shinall and Jessica Sasseen at [email protected]