NWS confirms EF1 tornado hit Tryon and Lake Lanier

Published 10:09 pm Tuesday, October 10, 2017

TRYON – The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed late Tuesday that the storm that ripped up a few areas in Tryon and around Lake Lanier on Sunday, Oct. 8 was in fact an EF1 tornado with winds up to 95 mph.

Tryon Town Manager Zach Ollis said he met with representatives from the NWS and showed them around town along with Polk County Emergency Management Director Bobby Arledge and Tryon Police Chief Jeff Arrowood.

“They surveyed the damage and determined that it was an EF1 tornado with winds up to 95 mph,” said Ollis. “The EF scale goes from EF0 to EF5.”

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Ollis said some of the clues they look for in making the determination include the direction in which the trees fall. If the trees fall at multiple angles, it shows them that the wind is circulating, Ollis said. If the trees fall in one direction, it indicates straight winds.

“We found multiple areas with trees falling in varied directions,” he said.

The tornado hit the area around 5:45 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8 and mostly affected Pacolet Street and Melrose Avenue in downtown Tryon and West Lakeshore Drive of Lake Lanier.

Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant reported earlier this week that although the total damage is still not known, the town does know there were at least 24 electrical utility poles broken, 24 transformers trashed or destroyed and many, many trees down, most of them involving some kind of utility lines.

The NWS also recorded 3.27 inches of rain in Tryon on Sunday, Oct. 8. Power was out for many of the approximate 2,000 Duke Energy customers from Sunday after the tornado until either late Monday night or Tuesday afternoon.

Ollis said the town public works crew is amazing. Within minutes, he said they were out helping to clear the roads.

“I am grateful that we have such hard working and dedicated staff because without them, this would have been a different story,” said Ollis. “Our crews worked until the early hours of Sunday morning clearing the roads so that EMS and fire could reach everyone if needed. Even after staying out all night, they found it in them to be back in the next day to pull another long day of getting the trees cut back.”

Ollis said Tuesday he feels certain the hard work Tryon’s crews put in over the last 48 hours made it easier for the electric companies to come in and do their job to restore power.

Ollis said the fire department worked tirelessly as well to respond to all calls and make sure the town was prepared in every way. Chief Tennant and assistant chief Tank Waters showed great leadership in managing the department and coordinating the efforts of assessing the damage, Ollis said.

The Town of Tryon declared a state of emergency Monday morning in order to receive federal assistance if necessary.

Ollis said Tryon Police Chief Jeff Arrowood and the department jumped into action, surveying streets and going door to door to check on residents following the tornado. Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill also helped survey damage and talked with residents.

“He was also kind enough to have some of his deputies keep an eye on our town along with our police department when we were without power,” said Ollis.

Ollis also thanked Polk County Manager Marche Pittman and Arledge as well as county commissioner Myron Yoder who were in Tryon first thing Monday morning ready to help in any way possible.

“The years of experience between them made this event a lot easier to navigate for us,” said Ollis. “It was extremely helpful to have the extra hands. It also shows a lot that county commissioner Yoder took time out of his day to come and give his support.”

The community in general worked together, neighbor helping neighbor. The Tryon Coffeehouse Co-op stayed open and gave free coffee to town and utility employees on Tuesday as they worked to clear trees and debris and restore power.

“In the aftermath of the tornado, local public safety and service personnel, Tryon Town officials and Tryon Town employees worked hard to help their citizens,” county manager Pittman said. “Their well-coordinated efforts helped to ensure that services were restored as soon as possible. The whole community pulled together in a way that should make all citizens of Polk County proud.”

Pittman said overall, the response from the whole county was phenomenal.

The tornado hit the area with no warning. Tryon had tested its emergency siren on Saturday, Oct. 7 as it does on a regular basis. The tornado hit many people while they were eating dinner or at church services with no alerts sent for this area regarding potential dangerous weather. Some residents reported hearing a freight train sound with some saying they saw the tornado, or a funnel, come over downtown Tryon. The tornado is not the first in Polk County, according to Arledge, but could be the first to ever hit Tryon.