updated 5/27/2004 2:56:20 PM ET 2004-05-27T18:56:20

Two schools were damaged during severe thunderstorms that possibly produced a funnel cloud and cut power to thousands of homes in upper East Tennessee.

Witnesses said a funnel cloud touched down late Wednesday afternoon at Kingsley Elementary School, demolishing an unoccupied portable classroom and breaking 30 windows in the main building. The classroom roof was lifted off and struck a parked car.

Strong winds damaged the roof at nearby Ketron Middle School, and rain poured into some of the classrooms.

School staff reported seeing a funnel cloud lift a large metal trash bin and set it back down. The school's football scoreboard and outdoor lights were knocked down, and the sign at the main entrance was destroyed by a fallen tree.

No one was injured.

The term was scheduled to end for the summer on Friday, but classes at both schools were canceled until further notice.

The National Weather Service could not confirm the area was hit by a tornado, but meteorologist Davis Holtz said radar patterns showed one could have touched down.

A tornado was confirmed over the Virginia border in Lee County and left a storage building on top of a mobile home, Holtz said.

Sullivan County Schools building maintenance director Joe Mike Akard said damage at both schools could reach $1 million and he is convinced that a funnel cloud hit the buildings.

"There's no doubt it touched down," Akard said. "You can pretty much follow it from Kingsley this way (to Ketron)."

More than 29,000 people were without power in the area, including 19,000 in Kingsport.

Winds gusting up to 60 miles an hour and hail hit Watauga and Carter counties, knocking down trees and power lines.

Four people were on Watauga Lake when their boat capsized, Carter County Sheriff John Henson said. Two of them swam to shore and the others clung to the boat until rescuers arrived.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments