Local officials remember eleventh anniversary of 2011 tornadoes

More than 300 people died as result of storms

RINGGOLD, Georgia (WDEF) — 11 years ago, several communities in the Tennessee Valley and Northern Georgia were rattled by one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in U.S. history.

On April 27, 2011, 216 tornadoes touched down in the southeastern United States.

Hundreds were left dead, thousands more injured, and several communities devastated.

“From where I was, I was probably a mile away,” said Kelly Bomar of the Ringgold City Council. “You could see transformers popping and you had this big cloud — it looked like a big cloud.”

Bomar recalls several Ringgold restaurants being destroyed, as well as severe damage being left to the local schools.

He called the night “chaos,” remembering a former school teacher and family of four losing their lives.

“It may have been the next day or maybe two days later, they shut down the road,” Bomar said. “You could not drive through Ringgold. The county deputies were blocking it off both ends. It was really unless you lived down there or on the property down there, or emergency folks, you couldn’t get in.”

At the time, East Ridge City Manager Chris Dorsey was the city manager of Red Bank and described the situation as “scary” and “stressful.”

However, he believes it could’ve been much worse.

“We were lucky in Red Bank with the amount of damage that we had,” Dorsey said. “A lot of it was the trees and things of that nature — [a] couple houses. Some of the roofs, as I said, came off but it was mainly just debris.”

11 years later, he still remembers the impact made by local responders.

“I’m just so proud of the jobs that our city crews did working through the night, working as long as it took to make sure people were safe and to make sure we were able to get life back to normal as [quickly] as we could,” Dorsey said.

In Ringgold, Bomar says the tornado left a “path of destruction” through the town.

He says April 27 is a date “you don’t forget” and spring storms are taken far more seriously.

“You have a place to go, a secure shelter, you pack a bag with some food and clothes because you just don’t know,” Bomar said. “Before the tornado 11 years ago, I wouldn’t have been that way. I would’ve just been, like, ‘yeah, whatever.'”

Both gentlemen remembered just how much effort was given to help clean up debris and provide food.

Even rival schools on the gridiron shared their classrooms with Ringgold students to finish the year.

While the tornadoes took so much from so many, they couldn’t take away the sense of community that so many out here love to provide.

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