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Tennessee Tornadoes Kill at Least Six. Here’s What to Know

6 minute read

Severe storms and tornadoes that swept across Tennessee killed six people and injured at least two dozen more on Saturday. 

The extreme weather destroyed homes, cut off power and closed roads, leading one mayor to issue a nighttime curfew on Saturday and Sunday starting at 9 p.m. 

“This is a sad day for our community,” Montgomery County Mayor Wes Golden said in a statement about the three people, including one child, who died in the area bordering Kentucky. “We are praying for those who are injured, lost loved ones, and lost their homes. This community pulls together like no other and we will be here until the end.”

Here’s what to know. 

What happened and what is the extent of the damage?

The National Weather Service issued severe weather watches and reported two dozen hail storms, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes across several counties in central and northern Tennessee on Saturday. The first touched down just before 1:30 p.m. in Cumberland City in Stewart County, northwest of Nashville. 

At approximately 2 p.m., a tornado touched down in the area of Hand Estates, a neighborhood in the vicinity of Garrettsburg Road in Montgomery County, the Sheriff’s Office said. Clarksville Fire and Rescue shared photos of ripped-up houses and a flipped semi-truck.

Three people—two adults and one child—were killed and 23 people treated at the hospital for injuries, Montgomery County said in a Facebook post. TIME reached out to the county for further information.

“This is devastating news and our hearts are broken for the families of those who lost loved ones,” City of Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts said in a statement. “The City stands ready to help them in their time of grief.”

Further south in Nashville, at least three people died and others were injured along Nesbitt Lane north of downtown, Metro Nashville PD said via social media. Meanwhile, Nashville's Emergency Operations Ctr. shared pictures of mangled homes and jumbled debris crashed on top of a car in the area.

The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said Joseph Dalton, 37, was inside his mobile home and died when the storm threw it on top of another residence, killing Floridema Gabriel Perez, 31, and her son, Anthony Elmer Mendez, 2, the Associated Press reported. Two other children, one in each home, were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, per the AP. TIME reached out to the police department for more information.

“We hope the death toll doesn’t rise,” Nashville Fire Department Chief and Office of Emergency Management Director William Swann said at a news conference on Sunday. “As of now, we don’t have anything, and we hope we don’t, but we’re still in the recovery stage right now and making assessments.” 

Nashville mayor Freddie O’Connell said Sunday that 22 structures had collapsed and many more had sustained significant damage. He said he was in touch with state and federal officials about a “likely disaster declaration scenario,” to get FEMA funding.

Swann estimated the damage to Davidson County, where Nashville is located, at $3 million, with around $12 million for the state, although that number could change. 

As of 10 p.m. on Saturday, the severe weather threat ended for all of Middle Tennessee, the agency said.

How have the storms disrupted life?

Both Davidson County and Sumner County, northeast of Nashville, declared states of emergency. In Montgomery County, Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts also declared a state of emergency and placed the city under a curfew on Saturday and Sunday nights starting at 9 p.m. 

As of Saturday, several roads were closed across the state, the Tennessee Department of Transportation reported. Multiple roads in Montgomery County were closed because of downed trees, power lines and an overturned semi-truck, the county said on Facebook

The storms knocked out power to around 19,000 customers, Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation reported. As of Sunday morning, around 13,000 customers around Clarksville were still without power, the company's website showed.

On Saturday evening, about 39,000 customers in Nashville were without electricity after two substations were damaged, the city’s emergency operations center said. The agency said that it was working to restore as much power as quickly as possible, “but the damage is severe and it will take our crews time as the assessments continue until the morning.”  

Nashville Electric Service reported that 26,000 customers were still in the dark as of 11 a.m., local time, Sunday. A company spokeswoman said during the news conference Sunday that there was no estimated time of restoration and outages in the Hendersonville area could last days because of extensive damage. 

O’Connell warned a cold snap was coming Sunday night and encouraged people in their homes with no power or who may not have access to reliable heating to reach out for help and shelter. 

Teams were still assessing the safety of Nashville’s schools, one of which was being used as a shelter, on Sunday morning, with no decision yet on whether they would be open Monday, Swann said. 

Schools were canceled in Montgomery County for Monday, the district announced. Assessments were ongoing of campuses and communities, and the district would update on Monday about plans for the rest of the week, including scheduled high school exams. “Our hearts are heavy as we learn of the loss of lives and critical injuries from yesterday’s storms,” the school district said. “Many families have completely lost their homes and others are doing what they can to make repairs. This was a devastating and tragic weather event in our community.” 

Sumner County school district said Sundaythat none of its schools experienced damage beyond metal flashing or debris from nearby neighborhoods, but a significant portion of the county was still without power. The district said it would decide at 4 p.m., local time, on Sunday whether school would be in session Monday. 

Where can people get assistance and how can others help?

The American Red Cross said on Saturday it was running three shelter locations in Tennessee: Northeast High School at 3701 Trenton Road in Clarksville, Beech High School at 3126 Long Hollow Pike in Hendersonville, and Isaac Litton Middle School at 4601 Hedgewood Drive in Nashville. If you are displaced, the relief organization said to call them at 1-800-RED CROSS for assistance. 

Nashville’s mayor directed people wanting to help near or from afar to the official website where vetted local organizations were accepting volunteers and donations for relief funds. Local nonprofit organizations in Montgomery County were also taking donations Saturday to help those who evacuated.

Nonprofit YAIPak issued an urgent request for cots, blankets, portable lights, ready to eat food, water, generators, household cleaning supplies, flashlights, batteries, plywood, large tarps, totes with lids, baby care items and small children’s toys. Those in the area can deliver donations to 1255 Paradise Hill Road in Clarksville.

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