On February 29, 1952, two violent tornadoes tore through parts of the Tennessee Valley, causing both death and injury. This year would technically be the 70th anniversary of those violent tornadoes. In the late afternoon and evening of that day, a strong cold front passed through the region, producing severe weather. This cold front combined with the strong low level jet stream is the scene of an active afternoon.
These two tornadoes killed two people and injured nearly two hundred; the majority of them were related to the F-4 that hit Fayetteville. These tornadoes were measured using the Fujita scale, unlike today where we use the enhanced Fujita scale. The Fujita scale was developed based on damage intensity, not wind speed; the wind speed used in the table above is an estimate. In 2007, the Enhanced Fujita Scale became operational and is used to assign a tornado a rating based on estimated wind speed and related damage.
The first tornado to touch down that day was an F-4 in Lincoln County, Tennessee. The tornado touched down around 4:30 p.m. just northwest of the old Lincoln County Hospital. This tornado moved east-northeast through Fayetteville for seven miles before lifting near the Lincoln County Stock Market along Highway 64. Although it remained on the ground for a brief period, it left behind a trail of destruction.
Peak winds associated with this tornado were in the range of 207-260 mph. Along the damaged seven-mile trail, trees were uprooted or snapped, power lines were downed, and more than 900 buildings were damaged or destroyed. Some of the buildings that were badly damaged were businesses, churches, and farm buildings. Two people lost their lives and several others were injured. At this point in history, it was the fourth tornado to hit downtown Fayetteville; other years included 1851, 1890, and 1909.
The second tornado to touch down that day was an F-3 in DeKalb County. The tornado touched down near the Fort Payne area and moved east four miles. Along this four-mile path of damage, 13 homes were destroyed, numerous trees were uprooted, and the giant barn at Fort Payne Sales was damaged. Sheet metal from the sales barn was found more than a mile away and some was lodged in trees. Fortunately, even though the houses were razed, there were no deaths but twelve people were injured.
For more detailed information on this severe weather event, you can visit the Huntsville National Weather Service page.
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