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Tornado Victims Spend Christmas Eve Cleaning Up

Posted at 10:32 PM, Dec 24, 2015

Severe storms ripped through Tennessee bringing tornadoes, hail, and damaging wind.

According to the National Weather Service, two tornadoes hit Middle Tennessee the night of Wednesday, December 23. An EF-1 tornado hit Perry County and an EF-3 tornado hit Wayne County.

A total of six people were killed during the storms. One was from Rhea County, two were a married couple from Perry County, and three were a 19-year-old woman, 22-year-old man, and a another 22-year-old man found in Maury County.

On Christmas Eve the enormity of damage and destruction was much more clear, and neighbors began the cleanup process.

Perry County

The clean-up effort began in Perry County while community remembers the lives of two people killed in Wednesday night's storms.

Antonio and Ann Yzaguirre were killed when a tornado picked up their home and tossed it nearly 100 yards away.  Rescuers found their bodies beneath mounds of debris.

"It's very devastating," EMA Director Gary Rogers said. "We’ve had six homes that have been totally destroyed and two people killed."

Tony Goodwin heard the warnings, carried his wife out of his house into a storm shelter just moments before the storm it.  He said the tornado didn't say on the group for too long, but it was a enough to destroy his home.

Officials with the National Weather Service said evidence points to a strong EF-1 tornado touching down.  With winds at more than 100MPH, the damage could be felt everywhere.

Personal items were found in trees, while trucks had been tossed into fields by those strong winds.

There were no massive power outages at this time, which is assisting with the clean-up.

Antonio was 70 years old and Ann Yzaguirre was 69. Reports told NewsChannel 5 they had just celebrated more than 30 years of marriage.

Wayne County

The tornado that ripped through Wayne County hit the small town of Lutts and caused extensive damage.

The Wayne County town is nestled between rolling hills and the tornado impacted nearly every building in the town.

The Lutts Post Office was blown off of its foundation. The twister left it in a pile of rubble.

Next door to the post office, the  tornado destroyed the Lutts United Methodist Church. Three of the building's four wall were leveled. The only area left standing was the doorway church members have walked through for nearly a century.

Thursday several church members tried to salvage what they could from the rubble.

"We have some of the records that were in the filing cabinet. We got quite a few of the song books, and a few bibles. But they'll have to dry out," said church member Kathy Franks.

Her grandsons Jesse and Jonah Keeton also helped clean up. They were amazed by the destruction.

"A little tornado can go a long way," Jesse Keeton said.

Homes from one end to Lutts Road, to the other, were damaged.

Marie and Billy Ray Franks were home when the tornado came through town.

"I could see the branches coming towards the window," Mrs. Franks said. "I said, something's happening."

Franks and her husband were not injured by the tornado that was gone just as quickly as it arrived.

"It sounded like a freight train. It was over on a half a minute," Franks said.

Two people who lived in a house the tornado destroyed next to the Methodist Church where injured and taken to the hospital.

Town leaders have suspended accepting donations until Saturday. They will start taking them on at the Collinwood Recreation Center. They are no longer in need of water or clothing donations.

Crews will need donated cleaning supplies, safety glasses, work gloves, and heavy-duty trash bags.

Lawrence County

The strong winds severely damaged several homes in Summerdale and other small towns nearby. 

Three people were injured when the wind picked up their home and threw it on its top and onto the family's vehicle. One of them was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center with a broken back.

The National Weather Service had not yet determined if what swept through the county was a tornado, but neighbors feel certain it was.

Smith County

The last round of storms hit the mid-state in Smith County Wednesday night. Around 10:45 people near Lancaster off Maynard Hollow Lane said they were hit by what sounded "like a freight train."

Five homes and buildings were either badly damaged or destroyed along with hundreds of trees.

No one was hurt or killed.

"Homes can be replaced, shops can be replaced, but lives can't. That in itself is a blessing right there especially at Christmas time," said Smith County Director of Emergency Management Sonny Carter.

The path of the storm is outlined by a scar on the ground for miles. It hit a sparsely populated area, and if there had been more homes it could have been much worse.

The National Weather Service should visit the area over the next couple days to investigate whether it was a tornado. Residents point to the trees which are mangled as if by the rotation of a tornado rather than straight line winds.

Emergency management staff are currently taking pictures and compiling a report of the damage for TEMA. They hope that all Tennessee counties affected last night are grouped together in a single weather event for a better chance to get government funding for clean-up.