Johnson City Press Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Community Columns Heritage Yesteryear

Boone Lake area hit by ferocious storm in March 1955

March 3rd, 2014 11:01 am by Bob Cox

Boone Lake area hit by ferocious storm in March 1955

Newspaper Heading, Flourville Mill Roof Peeled Off by Strong Winds, 1955 (Johnson City Press-Chronicle)

On Tuesday, March 1, 1955, turbulent winds from a funnel-shaped cloud ripped off roofs, demolished barns and turned boats upside down in the Boone Lake area.
According to the Weather Bureau at Tri-Cities Airport, although winds ranged as high as 80 miles per hour, no injuries were reported in the brief, yet violent storm. Reports from the Flourville area described the squall as rushing along with a sound like a truck. Almost immediately, the area became ominously dark.
Damage totaled in the thousands of dollars. The roof of the Flourville Mill (makers of Daniel Boone Flour and Becky Boone Corn Mill) was blown off, with damage unofficially estimated at around $1,200. Hal Wexler’s barn was demolished and sections of it were hurled in a westerly direction into Boones Creek. Large trees were uprooted in the vicinity and several of the side roads were blocked by debris.
A boat house belonging to Bert Couch and Ivan Good was tossed on its top, the strength of the wind breaking a one-inch steel cable that was holding it. Dr. Nat Winston’s boat was reported to have been lifted up and blown to dry land, while other crafts were flipped on their side by the strong wind gusts.
V.C. Ford, owner of the Boones Creek Boat Dock, said that he was sitting in his car when the storm struck, resulting in the back end of his vehicle being blown around about three feet. “I was scared to death,” he said. He added that one boat was blown about 300 yards.
Portions of Roy Brummit’s barn were carried about half a mile and sections of the tin roof were scattered over adjoining fields, with some of it landing in trees. A truck owned by Jim Crouch was also swerved around in the road for about three feet. Several residential window panes were reported broken and damage inflicted to roofs.
The storm, which many residents described as a “baby twister,” hit the Flourville area the hardest, although other sections received high winds and rain.
Nearby Johnson City received a heavy rainfall accompanied by winds about the same time as the storms struck the Boone Lake area. Also, Kingsport streets reportedly were flooded by the deluge. A barn near the Tri-Cities Airport and a radio range tower of the Weather Bureau were knocked down.
The weatherman said the storm moved eastward at about 40-50 miles per hour. For those residents in the storm area, which extended over a radius about two miles, the groundhog must have had seen his shadow a month earlier because the weather roared in like a lion that day.
A spokesman for the Johnson City Power Board noted that considerable damage resulted from the wind, which entangled power lines, causing short circuits. He said that the trouble was sporadic over a fairly large area and not confined to any one section of town. All crews worked to restore services to the relatively small percentage of power users who were affected.
The Inter-Mountain Telephone Co. reported the problem of “wet cables” following the heavy rain and that emergency crews were hard at work to repair the damage. Company officials said that a total failure on the line had occurred between Knoxville and Atlanta.
Cloudy skies occurred for the remainder of the day, with scattered showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon. A springtime temperature was forecast by the weather man for the day with a high around 70.
In Morristown, a large tree fell across some Southern Bell Telephone Co. lines, knocking out telephone services to all Tennessee points east of the city. The company also reported that 70 of its long distance circuits were cut by trees, felled by wind gusts up to 82 miles per hour. The outage occurred about 7:30 a.m. near Whitesburg, about 15 miles east of town.
Associated Press news service to newspapers and radio stations in the upstate area was affected temporarily by the weather.
At Knoxville Municipal Airport, a strong gust of wind picked up a Piedmont Airlines two-engine plane and slammed it into a fence.
How many of my readers recall that troublesome 1955 spring day?

Email Bob Cox at boblcox
@bcyesteryear.com or visit
www.bcyesteryear.com.

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