Tornadoes Kill at Least 22 and Hospitalize More Than 150 in Tennessee: Deadly 'Supercell' Winds Rip Through Nashville Injuring 'Multiple' People, Destroying Dozens of Buildings and Leaving Tens of Thousands Without Power
March 3, 2020
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee also said that 'a number of people' are still missing and several are injured.
- At least 22 people have been killed after tornadoes ripped through Tennessee Tuesday morning, officials said
- Tennessee Governor Bill Lee also said that 'a number of people' are still missing and several are injured
- At least two tornadoes hit central Tennessee including a 'supercell' storm described as 'extremely dangerous'
- One tornado ripped through downtown Nashville tearing through buildings, damaging homes and businesses
- Police confirmed two people were killed in Nashville, three died in Putnam County and one in Benton County
- Nearly 44,000 Nashville Electric Service customers left without power and multiple people were injured
Tornadoes struck central Tennessee early Tuesday morning leaving at least 22 people dead, more than 150 hospitalized and thousands without power.
One of the massive 'supercells' swept through downtown Nashville, knocking out power and tearing through at least 50 buildings. More than 47,800 were without power, according to Nashville Electric Service who said four of its substations were damaged. Half of those are customers are located in the Hermitage area.
'Last night was a reminder about how fragile life is,' Nashville Mayor John Cooper said at a Tuesday morning news conference.
The death toll jumped to 22 on Tuesday, Tennessee Emergency Management Spokeswoman Maggie Hannan said, after police and fire crews spent hours pulling survivors and bodies from wrecked buildings.
It's possible the death toll could continue to climb as authorities survey the landscape littered with blown-down walls and roofs, snapped power lines and huge broken trees.
Putnam Sheriff Eddie Farris said only 30 per cent of the disaster area had a 'hard check' by mid-day. 'A lot of these homes had basements and we’re hopeful there are still people down in there,' he said.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee also said 'a number of people' are still missing and about 156 have been hospitalized.
Police released aerial images of what remained after the tornadoes hit Nashville. Some homes were ripped to shreds while others remained intact.
'It is heartbreaking. We have had loss of life all across the state,' Lee said. The governor ordered all non-essential state workers to stay home Tuesday before going up in a helicopter to survey the damage.
Lee didn't give a specific count on the unaccounted-for individuals but he did say that 30 rescue workers have suffered injuries while searching for victims.
Schools, courts and transit lines were closed, and some damaged polling stations were moved only hours before Super Tuesday voting was set to begin.
Residents of the historic Germantown neighborhood walked around in dismay as emergency crews closed off roads.
'In the interest of safety we are asking all non-essential employees in the Nashville area to remain home today and use their best judgment,' Lee said.
'We have activated the State Emergency Operations Center and are engaged with emergency and local officials throughout the affected areas. Please join Maria and me in praying for the victims, their families, and all those tragically affected by this storm.'
President Donald Trump tweeted his support for the state Tuesday morning.
'Prayers for all of those affected by the devastating tornadoes in Tennessee. We will continue to monitor the developments. The Federal Government is with you all of the way during this difficult time.'
During his speech at the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference on Tuesday, the president said: 'Before I begin I want to send my warm wishes to the great people of Tennessee.'
'I'll be going there Friday. Our hearts are full of sorrow for the lives that were lost,' he added.
Initial survey results from the NWS showed that Mt Juliet was hit by an EF-3 tornado with winds between 155-160mph.
Donelson was also hit by an EF-3 tornado that carried winds between 160-165 mph.
'This is just damage observed in these neighborhoods and it might possibly be the same tornado,' the NWS wrote.
An EF-3 tornado is categorized as one that causes severe damage. Winds from these twisters are between 136-165mph.
The tornadoes were spawned by a line of severe storms that stretched from Alabama into western Pennsylvania.
In Nashville, the twister’s path was mostly north and east of the heart of downtown, sparing many of its biggest tourism draws — the honky tonks of Broadway, the Grand Ole Opry House, the storied Ryman Auditorium, and the convention center.
Instead the storm tore through areas transformed by a recent building boom. Germantown and East Nashville are two of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods, with restaurants, music venues, high-end apartment complexes and rising home prices threatening to drive out longtime residents.
'The dogs started barking before the sirens went off, they knew what was coming,' said Paula Wade, of East Nashville.
'Then we heard the roar ... Something made me just sit straight up in bed, and something came through the window right above my head. If I hadn’t moved, I would’ve gotten a face full of glass.'
Then she looked across the street and saw the damage at East End United Methodist Church.
'It’s this beautiful Richardsonian Romanesque church; the bell tower is gone, the triptych window of Jesus the Good Shepherd that they just restored and put back up a few weeks ago is gone,' she said.
Wade immediately recalled how a tornado damaged her own St Ann’s Episcopal church down the street in 1998.
'I had no idea that I still had some PTSD from that other experience so long ago, but the sound of the sirens, that low sound, there’s just nothing like it,' she said. 'To look out and see the church, its just heartbreaking. It brings out everything that happened to St Ann’s.'
The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down near downtown Nashville on Tuesday. Pictured is lightening flashing across the sky in the early hours of this morning.
Tuesday's tornado system was the third to rip threw downtown Nashville. According to the NWS, the previous two twisters occurred in the city in 1933 and 1998.
The 'March 3, 2020 Nashville Tornado had a path near but not quite exactly like the tornadoes of April 16, 1998 & March 14, 1933,' the service said.
Both the 1998 and 1933 tornadoes hit during the afternoon while Tuesday's occurred just after midnight.
On Super Tuesday in February 2008, Nashville residents fell victim to a night time system that caused damage across Middle Tennessee during a tornado outbreak.
The roof came crashing down on Ronald Baldwin and Harry Nahay in bedroom of the one-story brick home they share in East Nashville. 'We couldn’t get out,' said Baldwin. 'And so I just kept kicking and kicking until we finally made a hole.'
Also in East Nashville, the roaring wind woke Evan and Carlie Peters, but they had no time to reach the relative safety of an interior bathroom.
'Within about 10 seconds, the house started shaking,' Carlie Peters said. 'I jumped on top of the ground; he jumped on top of me. The ceiling landed on top of him. ... we’re grateful to be alive.'
Rescue workers were seen freeing a couple from their Barrett Drive home that collapsed on them overnight.
Bill and Shirley Wallace became trapped under rubble during the tornado. Shirley was taken to a local hospital for medical attention.
Actor Scott Baio tweeted that he was worried about his in-laws who live in Nashville, Tennessee.
'OMG! We haven't been able to make any contact with my in laws or my brother in law. Only Renee's younger sister Brandy, and a cousin. Please pray for our family and the Nashville area,' Baio tweeted early Tuesday morning.
Baio later followed that tweet up with another that reads: 'A lot of property loss & damage at Tuckers Crossroads where my in laws live. We JUST heard, by text message, they're alive!
'No power & now the cleanup begins. Thanks for the prayers & kind words. Middle Tennessee needs a lot of prayers for the community right now.'
One of the tornadoes was reportedly so strong that it threw a parked car into the third-floor of an apartment building Hermitage.
Aerial footage showed buildings and homes that were destroyed when the tornado tore through the Nashville Metro Area.
Roofs had been torn off apartment buildings, large trees uprooted and debris littered many sidewalks.
Walls were toppled, exposing living rooms and kitchens in damaged homes. Mangled power lines and broken trees came to rest on cars, streets and piles of rubble.
Terrifying footage showed lightening flashing across the sky and debris strewn across roads as the storm struck.
A reported gas leak forced an evacuation of the IMT building in the Germantown community, according to WSMV.
One tornado near downtown reportedly stayed on the ground into Hermitage, about 10 miles east of the city.
The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed the tornado touched down in the early hours of this morning and warned residents to 'take cover'.
The service tweeted: 'Tornado still confirmed on the ground near Hermitage. THIS IS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TORNADO! TAKE COVER NOW IN WILSON COUNTY!!!'
Videos emerged on social media showing lightening flashing across the sky and an apartment building gutted by high winds.
An apartment complex in Nashville was left heavily damaged and residents in the Germantown area of the city were evacuated from the building after the twister struck.
Images showed extensive damage to buildings, mangled wires on downed power lines and structures that are now unrecognizable as the tornado had reduced them to rubble.
One photo showed a white vinyl fence that had fallen a car. Another showed the roof and walls gone from a building that still had what appeared to be boxes stacked on shelves.
A witnesses of the Nashville tornado said it was a 'rough night in Germantown' as the twister went straight overhead.
One video posted online from east Nashville showed what appeared to be a well-defined tornado moving quickly across the city.
The whirl of the wind could be heard gusting after the tornado moved out of sight in the clip.
Photos showed dozens of people in the street carrying their belongings outside the IMT building not long after the tornado moved through the city.
The roofs of many buildings and other structures were torn off.
Nashville Fire Department are responding to reports of at least 50 building collapses around the city and warned residents to stay away from downed power lines and storm debris.
'Our community has been impacted significantly,' the Mt Juliet Police Department tweeted early on Tuesday. 'We continue to search for injured. Stay home if you can.'
Captain Chandler said in a Facebook video: 'Our community has been greatly impacted by a tornado.
'There are multiple homes damaged and multiple people injured. Our officers are in the early stages of this response and we continue to assess what is happening.
John C. Tune Airport, Nashville International's sister airport in West Nashville, 'sustained significant damage due to severe weather', spokeswoman Kim Gerlock said in a statement.
According to authorities, before the overnight tornado struck Germantown and East Nashville, it made a direct hit on the airport.
Several hangars have been destroyed and power lines are down. Photos showed several small planes that were torn apart by the twister as well as larger jets that suffered damage.
Gerlock asked that the public avoid the airport until further notice and that the Airport Authority has activated its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate response.
A hangar was ripped apart, and many aircraft severely damaged or destroyed at the John Tune Airport.
Mt Juliet Police Department said many homes had been damaged and multiple people had been injured and trapped in buildings by the storm.
'There are multiple homes damaged, multiple people injured, multiple people still trapped. We need your help.'
Chandler went on to say that first responders were doing their best to help those in need.
He added: 'There are gas lines that are leaking, power lines that are on the ground, and multiple emergency responders are responding to those who are injured and trying to get them the help that they need.
'We appreciate your concern, your prayers. Continue to pray for our first responders and those that are injured and we will continue to keep you updated.'
The tornado reportedly stayed on the ground into Hermitage, about 10 miles east of the city in Tennessee.
Authorities said the two people who were killed in Davidson County were 'struck by debris on McFerrin Street'.
'An adult female victim died at the scene. An adult male victim died after arriving at a local hospital. We are working on confirming their identities,' police said on Twitter.
Serious damage was caused in many parts of town including Germantown, where some of the worst damage to homes and businesses were seen.
The live music venue Basement East 'sustained significant damage', but all staff working inside weren't injured, the venue said on social media.
Two tornado warnings in Putnam County, east of Nashville, were reported. The NWS said the tornadoes were confirmed on radar.
County Mayor Randy Porter told CNN in a Facebook message that Putnam County saw 'several critically injured' people.
Metro Nashville Public Schools said its schools would be closed on Tuesday because of the tornado damage. Wilson County, just east of metro Nashville will close schools for the rest of the week.
Early morning storms also damaged homes and toppled trees in rural central Alabama, where the National Weather Service (NWS) reported winds up to 60mph and issued tornado warnings for at least five counties.
In rural Bibb County southwest of Birmingham, seven poll workers were getting ready to open the doors to Super Tuesday voters at the Lawley Senior Activity Center when cellphone alerts began going off with a tornado warning about 6.45am, said volunteer Gwen Thompson.
'Our children were calling too, telling us, "Get in the bathroom!"' she said. 'We all got in the bathroom and we’re OK, but lots of trees are down.'
The storm knocked out electricity, Thompson said, but the precinct’s two electronic voting machines had battery backups and a few people had cast ballots less than an hour later.
'We’ve been voting by flashlight,' Thompson said.
Northern and central Georgia could see up to five inches of rain from showers and storms Monday through Thursday, forecaster said.
In Mississippi, some flash flooding is expected Tuesday night through Wednesday night, the weather service said.
At least four people are dead in Wyoming and dozens injured in a pileup that happened amid blowing snow overnight.
Over 50 gauges in the south are already above flood level but more could be triggered as south of the Mississippi Valley and south of the Interstate 20 braces for two to five inches of rainfall.
But the culmination of days-long rain in the south poses danger for the likes of Houston, New Orleans and the Florida Panhandle by Wednesday. Residents in the south have been warned to look out for hail stones the size of softballs and more potentially deadly tornadoes.
Other places have already seen severe weather this week like the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California and the Rockies in Wyoming, which are covered in a foot of snow.
At least four people were killed in Wyoming and dozens more injured in a pileup that happened amid blowing snow.
The wreck happened in snowy, blustery weather Sunday on Interstate 80 about 180 miles west of Cheyenne.
About 30 people were taken to the emergency room at Memorial Hospital of Carbon County in the small city of Rawlins.
Officials at the 25-bed hospital called in in three extra doctors and set up a temporary patient holding area in a cafeteria.
Forecasters predicted snow driven by wind up to 50mph would continue to affect travel until Tuesday.
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