Survey of the Clarksville Tornado of January 22, 1999

An F3 tornado struck Clarksville at 415 AM, traveled through downtown and dissipated near St. Bethlehem. There were 5 injuries, 2 of them were for broken bones. Clarksville has a population of 89,000 people [and] is Tennessee's fifth largest city. [Twenty-five thousand] people were without power. The Tornado Warning was issued by the NWS at 354 AM CST. The NOAA Weather Radio alerted sleepy residents of Clarksville and urge[d] them to take cover immediately. The tornado ripped apart a 5 block area of downtown Clarsville and [tore] up buildings in Austin Peay State University. Once the tornado ravaged the city, downtown Clarksville resembled bombed-out London during World War 2. Bricks and glass were strewn everywhere. The photo editor of the Leaf-Chronicle newspaper, Fred Dye, said "It looked like somebody walked through with a broom and knocked over whatever else was loose enough to knock down." The Montgomery County court house was in ruins. The City Fathers planned on rebuilding the court house. It was last rebuilt after a fire in 1878. The Leaf-Chronicle newspaper office was severely damaged. The newspaper had to set up a temporary office in Hopkinsville, KY. [Twenty-two] buildings were heavilty damaged at Austin Peay State University. Also, several old churches were heavily damaged in Clarksville. The Madison Street United Methodist Church lost its spires and roof. It will take about 2 years to rebuild the church. The Trinity Episcopal Church lost its roof. Police closed off downtown Clarksville from 6 AM-6 PM in order to prevent looting. The National Guard was on duty as well. On January 23, FEMA Director James Lee Whitt toured the devestation. He Exclaimed, "Wow!" "It's like someone dropped a bomb on it. That's just what it look[ed] like." There [were] a total of 124 buildings destroyed and 562 buildings damaged. These figures included residential, commercial, government, public and buildings at Austin Peay.

[Note: The Clarksville tornado was on the ground from 415 AM until 420 AM, and traveled northeastward. The path length was 4.3 miles with a width of 880 yards. The property damage estimate was $72.7 million.]

 

Radar imagery (base reflectivity on left, base velocity on right) showing the parent supercell thunderstorm and tornado as it approached and moved across Clarksville.

Radar 1

Radar 2

Radar 3

Radar 4

 

Approximate path of the Clarksville Tornado.

Approximate path of Clarksville Tornado


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