Sign seen on the GA side of London Lane. Image via Marlin Thorman.

An extremely powerful tornado moved through the communities of Ringgold, Apison, and Cleveland during the evening of April 27, 2011. One of the most violent twisters to ever hit the area, this monster took the lives of 24 people and injured roughly 667. Damage costs totaled at least $88 million. 390 houses were completely destroyed, and roughly 1,000 sustained some form of damage. This does not include the many dozens of businesses that also suffered devastating impacts.

In order to fully tell the stories of the places affected and how they dealt with the disaster, the track has been divided into two summaries. The first examines the Georgia side of the event, including the Ringgold and Cherokee Valley areas. The second focuses on the Tennessee side, most prominently featuring the communities of Apison and Cleveland. Beyond connecting the two summaries, this overview page also features track maps and discrepancies.

Much of this documentation would not have been possible without the aid of many contributors. A special thank you to Marlin Thorman for an incredible interview and permission to feature his photos. Thank you also to Alvin Cummings, Lisa Foote, The Ringgold United Methodist Church, and Misty Walker for permission to feature their photos. Every image featured from these contributors is cited to them. NO images provided by them are to be redistributed in any way without the explicit permission of the owners.

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Aerial view of the damage in the hardest hit neighborhood off Friendship Road and Cherokee Valley Road. Image taken by Marlin Thorman.

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A very large, two-story home that was obliterated in the Apison area. Image from Marlin Thorman.

Discrepancies

How Many Died?

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) and the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) list 20 fatalities for the Ringgold tornado. The April 2011 Storm Data Publication (SDP), has 21. The NCDC/NWS Morristown Tornado Database has four of those in Bradley County, TN. Another four in the county were attributed to an EF2 earlier that day, and a ninth to an EF1. The SDP gives five in Bradley County to the EF4, one to the EF1, and three to the EF2.

We were able to find the locations of the individuals who perished in Bradley County, and also referenced local newspaper reports on the fatalities. What we found was that eight of the nine fatalities in Bradley County that day were located within the direct core of the Ringgold tornado. This included the one death attributed to the EF1 and three of those listed for the EF2. Thus, we came up with a total of 24 fatalities for this tornado.

How Many Were Injured?

The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) and the April 2011 Storm Data Publication (SDP) list only 30 injuries in Catoosa County, GA. According to Angel Emergency Medical Services, there were 362 Catoosa County injuries that were treated. This seems considerably more realistic of a number both in relation to other county injury figures, the number of structures destroyed, and eyewitness accounts from the area. This would bring the total number of injuries up to 677.

Path Length

The SPC and NCDC list a path length of 48 miles. The SDP has a path length of 49.3 miles, but there is no entry listed for McMinn County, TN. Extremely detailed analysis of the damage indicates that the tornado actually began in Walker County, GA and not Catoosa County, GA. The end point is also pushed slightly further northeast than the official coordinates. This gives a corrected path length of 54.88 miles.

Maximum Width

The SPC/NCDC/SDP/NWS Morristown Tornado Database list a maximum width of 800 yards (0.45 miles). Analysis of the damage indicates a maximum width of 1,400 yards (0.80 miles).

SPC Stats

Path length: 48 miles

Width:  800 yards

Fatalities:  20

Injuries:  335

Rating:  EF4

County:  Catoosa (GA) / Hamilton, Bradley, Polk, McMinn (TN)

SPC Track Map

SPC Coordinates:    Start: 34.8744 / -85.1785   End: 35.37 / -84.6

Note: Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

EF Scale Map

Corrected coordinates based on ground level, aerial, and satellite imagery, as well as all reliable damage reports:

Start: 34.822196 / -85.253517    End: 35.379220 / -84.589131

Note: Exact tornado path may not be straight and/or continuous.

In Loving Memory

In Ringgold:
Rhea Garrett McClanahan, 86

In Cherokee Valley:
Holly Readus, 26
Robert Jones, 47
Jack Estep, 61
Chris Black, 47
Pam Black, 46
Cody Black, 21
Chelsea Black, 16

In Apison:
Adam Carroll, 17
Bobby Raper, 63
Brenda Prescott, 56
Donald Christian, 70
Dorothy Christian, 62
Joann Darnell, 77
Joshua Poe, 31
Mary Raper, 60

In Cleveland:
Chase Glasgow, 3 months
Eva Catlett, 67
Evelyn Johnson, 56
Kandice Satterfield, 40
Lisa Pack, 42
Rhonda Smith, 33
Tami Glasgow, 42
Tommy Evans, 56

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Note:  There are some images/videos in our summaries that were licensed to us to be used only on this website. If you would like to use an image/video in your project or blog, please contact us and we will grant permission if possible.

Newspaper clips are embedded via newspapers.com.  Please see their terms and conditions.


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