Dylan Compton stands in his parents dining room that was shredded from an EF-1 tornado on Sunday. The family took shelter in the basement and no one was injured, although the home is a complete loss. (Becky Campbell/Johnson City Press)
Dylan Compton was home with six family members when an EF-1 tornado struck Washington County Sunday evening, and their Kitzimller Road home took a direct hit.
It was one of 40 residential structures damaged in the twister, which cut a seven-mile path through the county. The Compton home was the only one destroyed.
“These are very preliminary,” said Washington County EMA Director Nes Levotch, about damage numbers.
“We had 40 structures affected. Seven of them had moderate damage and one was destroyed,” he said. That does not include numerous barns, outbuildings and sheds destroyed or damaged, Levotch said.
He and other officials toured the area Monday to assess damage. At this point, Levotch said there is no monetary figure attached to the destruction caused by the tornado.
“That will come later,” he said. It will include clean-up costs incurred by the county.
Preliminary National Weather Service data indicates that two EF-1 tornadoes touched down in the region Sunday evening, which had an average maximum wind speed of 105 mph.
The first tornado to touch down did so in Sullivan County along Rock Springs Road in Colonial Heights at around 5:45 p.m. Sunday. Although the tornado had a duration of one minute, according to NWS, its winds reached a peak speed of 110 mph and it traveled 1/2 mile down Rock Springs, damaging four homes in the process.
The tornado that would make its way through Gray residential neighborhoods began 3.7 miles southwest of Colonial Heights at around 5:47, according to the NWS.
Although the Gray tornado had a slower maximum wind speed of 100 mph, NWS estimated it had a 15-minute duration and traveled 7.1 miles in a southeasterly direction. Free Hill Road, Field Stone Drive and Wiltshire Road were among the hardest-hit areas of Gray.
It was near 6 p.m. when the Comptons were getting ready to eat supper, and they knew there were predictions for severe weather, Compton said.
“Mom was cooking and the power went off so that was the end of the cooking,” he said.
When the wind picked up, the women and baby retreated to the basement for safety. Compton, his brother and father stayed upstairs for a few more minutes and watched through one of two sets of French-style doors leading onto a deck.
“We saw the debris start flying by. It was really high up in the air. Then we saw the trees start falling over like it was nothing,” he said, describing the storm as it pushed closer. He even thought he saw the funnel cloud that was surely in the mix.
That’s when Dylan’s father, Mark Compton, said they all needed to get downstairs, the younger Compton said.
“As soon as we started down the steps you could hear stuff start shattering,” he said.
That “stuff” was the structure and contents of the Compton home. When all was said and done, a porch door was blown off its hinges, walls were bowed out and in, sheetrock dropped off the ceiling and household items scattered everywhere.
Part of the Comptons’ roof ended up two fields away while a patio was blown across the nearby railroad tracks.
“If it wasn’t for the basement,” Compton said, his voice trailing off into silent thought as he surveyed the damage inside the house.
When the storm passed and the Comptons could leave the shelter of the basement, they could hardly believe the damage, Compton said.
“You don’t realize how powerful storms are,” he said.
The heat pump was turned over, chairs and other outdoor patio furniture was scattered around as was some contents of the house, including dishcloths from the kitchen, Compton said
Dozens of trees snapped or uprooted also covered the yard, he said.
That was the task at hand on Tuesday for Compton, his father and family friends. They had already cut up six large trees damaged in the tornado, but had at least a dozen more to work on.
The family’s insurance will cover the damage to their home, although it could be months before the structure is completed, Compton said. In the meantime, the family is in temporary housing. Compton said he’ll be returning to the University of Tennessee soon to begin his senior year.
Compton said he had always wanted to see a tornado just to say he’d seen one. No more tornado wishes for him, he said.
“I’ve had my fix.”
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