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Tornado ravages Tellico, but brings community together

A March 2 tornado left portions of Tellico Plains and the surrounding area in rubble. The Tellico
Plains tornado and how it brought the community together in the face of a disaster was one of
the biggest stories in 2012 in Monroe County.
Published: 8:51 AM, 12/27/2012

Author: Tommy Millsaps
Source: The Monroe County Advocate


January opened on a sad note with the death of a Vonore man on Jan. 4, when his house caught fire. Paul Thompson, 65, was killed in the blaze.

Within a few days, one of the larger ongoing stories of the year hit the stands when Eddie Ledford of Sweetwater was arrested on child sex charges. The shocking story played out through December of this year when Ledford allegedly tried to commit suicided just before he received a lengthy prison sentence. If he lives, Ledford will be more than 100 years old when he gets out of jail.

On a much more positive note, Tellico Plains Lady Bears basketball coach Gary Tucker notched his 600th win at the end of the month.


Just hours before Valentine's Day, Beck's Florist burned down in Madisonville on what should have been one of the busiest days of the year for the flower shop.

But once again, there was good news around the corner on the basketball court for Monroe County when the Rural Vale Lady Panthers brought up a state junior high basketball title and enjoyed a big reception from the community.


For the second year in a row, a major severe weather event struck the county. On a balmy Friday, March 2, an EF-2 tornado slammed into Tellico Plains with 130 mph winds early in the afternoon.

The terrifying twister hit about the time school was letting out early trying to beat the stormy weather. The relatively large tornado tore into the TDS garage and many other buildings with fury. Some people were too busy trying to protect themselves to describe the tornado.

"If you've got your head down between your knees praying there's not much more you can see," said TDS worker Bob Dockery just moments after the tornado struck.

Fortunately, there were no major injuries, however, the damage to the town and outlying area was major.

The community rallied around Tellico Plains, raising money for those who lost everything during the storm. A couple of large fundraising events were held and many people brought food, clothing and other supplies to The Advocate & Democrat to take to Tellico Plains.

Just days after the tornado, a reoccurring theme of killings in Monroe County in 2012 took center stage again when a Vonore man, Luther Vineyard, was murdered at his home. Four suspects were charged in connection with the killing.

On March 13, a popular Tennessee Highway Patrol officer from Monroe County was nearly killed when his patrol car was struck by a tractor-trailer on the interstate in Knoxville. But the story of Sgt. Lowell Russell's courageous survival soon became an inspiration to everyone not only in Monroe County, but the state of Tennessee as well.

Later in the month, the death of an elderly woman who was allegedly badly abused became a murder case with the death of Mary Shaw, 79. Two people were charged in connection with her death.

March 2012 ended up being the warmest March on record with the average temperature some 10 degrees above normal.


Controversy exploded when the County Commission's resolution calling for four Monroe County Board of Education districts instead of three did not make it to the Tennessee General Assembly in time for a vote on the House floor. Much finger pointing and many conspiracy theories floated about as to why the measure did not make it in time.

By late April, Monroe County was adorned in purple as purple bows became the theme for the annual Relay for Life walk to raise money for the fight against cancer.

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