The night of Friday, March 31, 2023, was one that Wayne Countians won’t soon forget. We had been hearing of the possibility of severe storms all week, and Friday brought an upgrade in the risk factor to a five out of five. Ben Luna of Tennessee Valley Weather covered the storms from start from finish, and posted some remarks in his blog on Sunday.
“Just a couple nights ago, during the night of March 31 and early morning hours of April 1, the Tennessee Valley experienced a tornado event that we will remember for years to come: a rare, long-tracked and intense tornado tracked across portions of Southern Middle Tennessee for some 60+ miles, with tornado warnings being issued for several consecutive hours,” Luna said.
In the late afternoon hours of Friday, we began hearing about tornadoes ripping through parts of Arkansas, causing devastation in Little Rock and surrounding areas. “There is an old adage that the first storm of the day gives you a sense of what the rest of the severe weather event may be capable of, and when this occurred, we began to take serious notice of the conditions as time went on,” Ben Luna said in his blog post.
At around 11:30 p.m., tornado warnings were issued for McNairy and Hardin counties, where there was a confirmed tornado on the ground headed right for Wayne County. Tennessee Valley Weather turned their Waynesboro SkyCam westward. “What we saw was staggering,” Luna said. “A large, wedge tornado more akin to what you’d see on the Great Plains in Kansas, illuminated by flashing power poles and lightning flashes.”
The tornado that was spotted on the SkyCam west of Waynesboro came across Highway 641 in Clifton, damaging homes and property. The monster tornado continued its destructive path, traveling through the Beech Creek community and leaving devastation in its wake. After demolishing Beech Creek, the tornado continued on through the Topsy community before exiting Wayne County.
The National Weather Service declared this tornado an EF2 on the Fujita scale. An EF2 tornado can produce winds from 111 to 135 miles per hour. The tornado was estimated to be on the ground in Wayne County for approximately 38 miles.
The photos don’t even do justice to the damage, which has changed the lives of many Wayne Countians. Thankfully, no fatalities were reported in our county.
Tragedy can cause unspeakable damage, but it also has a way of bringing people together. Many have come to the devastated areas to participate in the cleanup and offer help. Items for tornado victims may be dropped off at the Wayne County Executive’s office, the Beech Creek Fire Hall, and many churches in the area. Specific supplies have been requested by the victims, including: tarps, bottled water, snack food/canned goods, hygiene items, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, garbage bags, work gloves, water coolers, paper cups/plates/forks/spoons, and plastic totes.
All those affected by this awful event, including many more across our state, need all the help they can get at this time, but most of all, they request your prayers.