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7 dead, 200 homes destroyed in small mountain village

WARTBURG, Tenn. (BP)–At least seven are reported dead, 60 injured and 45 missing in Morgan County, Tenn., after a tornado touched down Nov. 10, according to Cecil Whaley, director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

Emergency personnel, along with local Southern Baptists, are setting up command and evacuation centers in the Mossy Grove and Joyner communities as well as Wartburg and Petros. Whaley told Baptist Press that Mossy Grove “was wiped off the face of the earth.”

One of hardest hit areas was the rural community of Mossy Grove, about 40 miles west of Knoxville, where seven people were found dead and 45 were reported missing after a tornado cut a swath five to six miles long just before 9 p.m. Nov. 10.

Two hundred homes were destroyed in the storm, according to a spokesperson for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

Flattened mobile homes, uprooted trees and power poles littered fields and blocked roadways. Emergency crews relied on ham radio operators for communication since phone lines were knocked out by the storm.

Several of those who died apparently were trapped in cars, he said. The dead include a 4-month-old child.

At least 60 people were injured, including four critically, he said. Another 150 people were reported missing. Hamby said since phone lines were down, some of the people reported missing might be OK but they have no way of letting others know that. He said search crews would begin at daybreak looking for the missing.

The storm brought with it heavy rain and golfball-size hail, he said. “It didn’t last long, just here and gone,” Hamby said.

Brian Hollaway, pastor of Piney Baptist Church in nearby Oakdale, told Baptist Press the devastation in Mossy Grove is massive.

“The destruction was just amazing,” he said. “Houses are gone, cars were stripped of their metal down to the frames, four wheelers in trees, it’s just amazing.”

Hollaway and David Akers, director of mission at the Big Emory Baptist Association, were escorted into the devastated area by the Roane County fire chief.

Local Southern Baptists set up a command post at Calvary Baptist Church, where they are providing food and shelter for victims. Baptists are also feeding hundreds of rescue workers pouring into the area.

Holloway said the response from Tennessee Baptists has been overwhelming. The pastor told Baptist Press that six of his church members lost their homes in the Mossy Grove area. One church member sustained minor injuries.

Holloway said there was no information on the condition of Mossy Grove Baptist Church. He said initial reports indicated the building suffered serious damage.

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