Homes, churches, and superintendent's car damaged by July 27 storms

Homes, churches, and superintendent's car damaged by July 27 storms

The Rev. Jeff Wright's car windows are shattered by storms in the Big Stone Gap District.

Holston members were among the victims of Sunday night’s storms throughout the region, although there were no fatalities or injuries.

Pastor Jim Mullen had just left his home in Speedwell, Tenn., to return his wife to a nursing home where she is receiving rehabilitative care. Fifteen minutes later, a tornado destroyed their home. 

Mullen, who has served 21 years as pastor at Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Jacksboro, Tenn., did not realize the weather conditions were so dangerous.

“We live in the shadow of the Cumberland Mountain and the storm came through the gap,” he said. “If we had been there, we wouldn’t have made it. It’s a total loss.”

Emergency management officials later reported that a tornado with winds reaching 140 mph had destroyed 10 homes in the Speedwell area.

The Mullens built the house more than seven years ago and will rebuild, the Oak Ridge District pastor said. In the meantime, he will stay with their son, who lives next door, or at his late parents’ home. 

“It can be replaced. That’s the only way you can look at it,” Mullens said of his home. Although his son called to alert him that “it looks like a bomb has gone off in your house,” the family was amused that six-year-old Jasper the cat had survived by hiding in a barn.

Mullens said that all of his 10 to 12 church members had reached out to him with offers of help. “They’re just a great bunch of people.”


In the Johnson City District, Tom and Brenda Boyd were eating dinner when their son, who lives next door, called and warned them to go downstairs immediately.

The couple hurried to a “boxed-in bathroom in the basement,” Tom Boyd said, and within a couple of minutes, the heavy winds had passed over. However, left behind were numerous broken trees that crushed both ends of the house. 

“It’s somewhat heartbreaking. It did a lot of damage,” said Boyd, who built the house in Gray, Tenn., in 1977. “I’m just thankful no one was hurt.”

Long-time members of Gray United Methodist Church, the Boyds married a year ago after both of their spouses died. Brenda Boyd had not yet sold her original home, so they will live there until the damage can be repaired, her husband said.

A church team arrived Monday to remove some trees to allow Boyd to retrieve his car. They will return for more repairs after the insurance adjustor has responded, according to church member Don Hall.


The Rev. Jeff Wright has been on the job as the new Big Stone Gap District superintendent for less than a month, yet he’s already taking the district by storm.

After visiting Scott and Wise Counties, Wright was completing his third and final introductory meeting in Lee County at First United Methodist Church of Pennington Gap, Va., when a noisy hail storm hit about 5 p.m.

"We weren't scared as much as concerned," Wright said, describing how church members had to "stay put" inside. When the storm was over and church members stepped outside, they understood why the noise outside had been so alarming.

Baseball-sized hail had broken Wright's rear car window and dented his fenders and hood. The Rev. Richard Tallent's car windows were also cracked, and the church's metal roof and siding were dented.

"It was all over in 15 minutes," said Nancy Hobbs, a member at First Pennington Gap. "I've never seen anything like it ... No loss of life or limb anywhere, so we are fortunate."

Elsewhere in Holston Conference, at least two churches experienced water damage during the widespread storms.  At least 20 volunteers rushed to Wheeler United Methodist Church on Sunday night to help with clean-up following a “major roof leak” caused by heavy rains and hail, according to the Rev. Chris Brown said. (See photo.)

“We are already in the process of replacing the roof so at least we won't have to put up with it long,” Brown said. Wheeler is located in Blountville, Tenn., in the Kingsport District.

At Parrottsville United Methodist Church in the Morristown District, the Rev. Don Jones arrived at work on Monday morning to discover water damage in the church office.

“I understand it has happened before,” Jones said. “No major problems. We lost a small book case and two rugs. All electrical appliances were fine.”


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Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.