20 injured after tornado rips through McMinn; Historic home damaged

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

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ATHENS, Tenn. (WKRN) – Twenty people were injured after a tornado touched down overnight Tuesday, causing widespread damage.

The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed the EF-2 tornado hit the ground at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

While 20 people were injured, 30 structures were damaged.

News 2 visited Athens where areas off State Route 307 were decimated, especially the Deerfield subdivision. Authorities shut down part of the road to through traffic.

PHOTOS: Tennessee, Alabama storm damage

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

Another strip mall not far from State Route 307 was also hit by the storm. A Save-A-Lot grocery store lost its roof and siding with other stores had more minor damage.

All five buildings at a local church and christian school received some type of damage as well. Administrators told News 2 there was a basketball game mere hours before the storm hit and 150 people were in attendance, so they are relieved no one was around when the tornado passed through.

MORE: Death toll rises to 5 after storms hit South

School buses were used to transport displaced residents to a safer area. The Red Cross has created a shelter at Keith Memorial United Methodist Church.

McMinn County, Etowah City, and Athens school districts were closed for the day, as was Cleveland State Community College.

Historic home damaged after $200K in renovations

A home behind the grocery store that was built in the 1800s was also severely damaged. The roof caved in and the home is now filled with water damage.

The homeowner, Jeff Long, had just saved the historic structure from being torn down by the city, but now he may have to tear it down himself.

Jeff Long in his historic home's yard (Photo: WKRN)
Jeff Long in his historic home’s yard (Photo: WKRN)

He told News 2 he and his wife Lisa didn’t even have time to hunker down in the hallway of the guest house they’ve been living in.

“We heard the glass breaking out in the bedroom, the doors slamming, and about 30 seconds to a minute it was over with,” Long described.

The home was once owned by federal judge Nixon Van Dyke who helped bring the railroad into East Tennessee.

“It was our dream to live in this house, but you know, it’s just better to be alive than dead,” Long told News 2.

(Photo: WKRN)
(Photo: WKRN)

Long says he’s spent more than $200,000 renovating the home, but in a matter of minutes, it was gone.

“About all we can do is demolish it probably,” he said, adding, “The time of night it was, it’s just fortune that nobody did die.”

The Long family says they didn’t have insurance on the historic house because the policy would have been too much and wouldn’t have covered natural disaster.

The property was also home to the tallest magnolia tree in Tennessee, measured by state officials. The top of it was ripped off and another large Magnolia tree was uprooted.