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Tennessee Tornado Brings Fast Response

Engineer battalion leads effort to clear debris after storm system affects 40-mile area
SGT Eddie Branum of the 190th Mobility Augmentation Company cuts a downed tree for removal after a tornado hit areas of Claiborne and Campbell County, TN, on July 27. Photo from Tennessee National Guard
SGT Eddie Branum of the 190th Mobility Augmentation Company cuts a downed tree for removal after a tornado hit areas of Claiborne and Campbell County, TN, on July 27. Photo from Tennessee National Guard

SPEEDWELL, TN On the evening of July 27, an unusually strong storm system ravaged areas of Campbell and Claiborne counties in northeast Tennessee.

Significant damage occurred in and surrounding the town of Speedwell, where an EF-3 tornado with winds exceeding 140 miles per hour damaged or destroyed several structures along its path.

According to the National Weather Service Office in Morristown, TN, the tornado lofted wreckage as high as 10,000 feet into the air as it moved through the area.

Upon inspection by local and state authorities, the Tennessee Army National Guard was requested by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to provide heavy equipment and personnel to assist in recovery operations in the impacted area under Operation Task Force Engineer. The Tennessee National Guard was activated Aug. 3-14.

Tennessee's 230th Engineer Battalion, located in Trenton, led the operation with 16 Soldiers from the 190th Mobility Augmentation Company located in Russellville/(Morristown); 10 Soldiers from the 212th Engineer Company located in Paris and Camden; six Soldiers from the 913th Horizontal Engineer Company from Union City; and one Soldier from the 230th Headquarters/Headquarters Company. Five Soldiers from the Forward Support Company located in Trenton also participated.

“Our mission is to clear roads and provide support to civil authorities in response to the natural disasters in Claiborne and Campbell Counties. This is but one of the state missions that we have the honor to conduct to help our fellow Tennesseans and is one of the primary reasons my Soldiers joined the Guard as engineers,” says Captain Eric Madison, officer in charge, with the 190th Mobility Augmentation Company. During the first week of the mission, more than 3,400 cubic yards of storm debris have been removed by the Guard and other supporting agencies, according to Madison. 

“The mission has been a model domestic support to civilian authorities operation,” Madison says. “All of our efforts have been fully integrated with the local civilian authorities and the help of the Tennessee Department of Transportation, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Department of Forestry and the Tennessee Department of Safety. Additionally, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team of Tennessee provided meals for those supporting the overall mission.” 

“The Tennessee National Guard response, along with all the support agencies, has been very efficient. We were very glad they were able to assist and have been instrumental in clearing a debris swath that spans approximately 40 miles,” says Gina Breeding, a spokeswoman for the Claiborne County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. Breeding indicated 30 structures had been damaged with 11 homes and two businesses completely destroyed.