Like a scene from a movie… County Mayor shares thoughts from weekend wind damage

Published 3:12 pm Tuesday, June 1, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
Like many other county residents, those living along Browns Branch Road where it intersects with Rittertown Road were looking forward to a three-day weekend with Memorial Day coming up on Monday.

Darkening skies might have indicated that wet weather was on the way, but little did those residents expect just what those clouds were going to bring to them.

As local weather meteorologists along with the National Weather Service issued severe storm warnings which might include gusting winds to between 60 and 80 miles per hour, residents were quickly shaken as the snapping and popping of trees which couldn’t hold up to straight-line winds beginning sending those trees everywhere including on top of homes and over power lines that resulted in electrical outages.

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Upon being notified of what had happened, Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby and Sheriff Dexter Lunceford went to the scene to access the damage and to be of help if needed.

Mayor Woodby wasn’t expecting to witness the amount of damage she encountered upon arriving.

“We drove to the lower end of Browns Branch and the only ones there were there was the power company and deputies who had already walked through the fallen trees to check houses,” Mayor Woodby reflected. “I could not believe the damage.

“Trees, power poles, and lines were down all around us. It looked like a scene out of a movie. One of the homes had trees on and through their roof and a small shed out back was completely destroyed. We walked as far in as we could climbing over trees and stepping around down power lines.”

Woodby said that she and the sheriff found the family scared by the incident but okay and they immediately tried to assist them away from their home and to safety.

“They were trying to cross a creek and the older gentleman had an oxygen bag,” said Mayor Woodby. “I was really worried about him. The sheriff assisted them across the creek.

“They were just glad everyone was ok. We talked with them as they told us the storm just came from out of nowhere and trees were falling everywhere.”

In visiting the area on Saturday, some of the residents doing clean-up around their homes said that it was like a tornado came roaring through the tight little valley surrounded by ridges on both sides of Brown Branch Road.

Mayor Woodby said that the County EMA made her aware that there was no tornado, only straight-line winds.

With property damage to some homes in the area, the Mayor was also asked if there could possibly be some state or federal assistance provided to assist those homeowners.

She advised that the damage is still being accessed and that they were in the early stage of that process.

Mayor Woodby said that she was very proud of the way that everyone responded to aid the residents after the storm passed through.

“I would like to give a huge thank you to our highway department and volunteer fire departments for working way up into the morning to get trees cut and removed out of the road and the Elizabethton Electric System for getting the power back on by the next evening when initially they thought it would be a couple of days,” she commented.

“Also to our EMA and sheriff’s dept for checking on homes and getting people out if needed. This was a team effort and I am so proud to be a part of such a great community! I see firsthand what happens when we work together.”

She went on to share one example of the commitment from those who responded to assist those who were affected by the storm.

“It was pouring the rain as we all assessed the damage,” Mayor Woodby shared. “A supervisor with the highway dept said, “Lets get to moving,” and I said it’s pouring the rain and it’s getting dark.

“Will this be dangerous for the guys to cut trees? And he said, “we have to get this road open for the residents”. That statement showed me the dedication so many of our departments have to our community.

“Sometimes these can be thankless jobs but I want to say to all of them – THANK YOU for loving your community.”

The Mayor said that the teams worked until 2 am on Saturday morning removing debris and cutting trees.

“Wow – I am so proud to call this my home,” she said adding that she had to ring out her socks when she arrived home.