RoEllen, Tennessee Tornado

RoEllen, a rural Dyer County hamlet located about five miles east of Dyersburg in Tennessee's northwest corner was struck by a tornado around 4:05 a.m. on Thursday, April 16, 1998. The National Weather Service issued a Tornado Warning at 3:35 a.m. as the tornadic thunderstorm was approaching the Mississippi River from Arkansas. Thus, the warning was posted a full half-hour before the tornado struck.

The RoEllen tornado first touched down to the west of the community. Moving rapidly toward the northeast, the tornado crossed state Highway 104 about 1.5 miles west of RoEllen (Fig. 1). At that point, the tornado produced only F-0 damage. While most of the initial damage swath was to trees, one home along Highway 104 suffered minor roof damage. The tornado then passed over open agricultural land until it crossed Welch Road. A farm's machine shed was heavily damaged just north of Welch Road's intersection with Clanton Road. The tornado then increased to F-3 intensity and completely demolished a substantial brick home located along Cribbs Road and a house trailer next door (Fig. 1, #1 & #2). Both homes were occupied.

The bodies of the house trailer's occupants, a man and wife in their mid 40s, were found near a copse of trees about 250 yards toward the southeast of where the house trailer was sited. The remnants of the house trailer were widely strewn. Heavy objects such as the water heater, stove, and clothes washer were found about 200 yards to the north. The twisted remains of the trailer's frame were found about 300 yards toward the northeast. Two lightly constructed homes between where the trailer had been and where its frame landed were not seriously damaged, suggesting the frame may have flown over them.

Residents of the brick house, a mother and teenage daughter, saw notice of the tornado warning on television. They went to shelter in a corner of the home's basement. While the tornado completely demolished their home and deposited a pickup truck on the remains, they were unhurt.

Passing next over agricultural fields and diminishing to F-2, the tornado then struck two mobile homes recently sited along the east side of RoEllen-Newbern Road. The southern-most mobile home was pushed toward the east, off its footings. But it didn't appear to have sustained fatal damage. The northern-most mobile home (Fig. 1, #3) was completely gone, except for twisted parts of the frame.

Occupants of this moble home, a man and his wife, had come home from working a late shift shortly before the tornado arrived. After hearing the tornado warning on a radio scanner, the husband went to their front porch to observe the weather. He heard the approaching tornado, collected his wife, and they ran to the ditch along the road in front of their home. They dove into the mud-filled ditch, and clung to their driveway's metal culvert while the tornado roared over their heads and destroyed their home. Neither suffered injury.

The tornado continued on toward the northeast, and continued to weaken. It next crossed Cross Country Road at F-1 intensity. There its path crossed another trailer home (Fig. 1, #4). Three persons occupied this home when the tornado struck -- a man, his wife, and his mother. The tornado rolled the trailer home toward the east onto its roof. The male occupant and his wife were uninjured, but the older woman suffered broken bones and was briefly trapped in the mobile home.

The RoEllen tornado again moved over open agricultural land as it continued toward the northeast, and seems to have dissipated before doing more than toppling a few trees about three-quarters of a mile on.

Relative velocity map from Doppler radar showing inbound and outbound velocity couplet as the tornado moved through RoEllen.


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