Published On: Tue, Mar 3rd, 2020

At least 9 dead after tornado rips through Nashville and central Tennessee

At least nine people were killed, others were injured and 50,000 households and businesses were left without power when a tornado struck parts of Nashville and central Tennessee early Tuesday, officials said.

The deaths occurred in four counties, including Davidson, where Nashville is, and Putnam, Benton and Wilson, Gov. Bill Lee said.

“We have had loss of life all across this state,” Lee said, adding that besides those confirmed dead some people are unaccounted for. “There are folks missing.”

The severe weather severely damaged dozens of homes and buildings, and as Tennesseans get ready to vote in Super Tuesday primaries, state officials were scrambling to ensure residents can still get to the polls.

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At least 45 buildings collapsed in Nashville, and police said that there were multiple buildings with damage, primarily in the downtown and east precincts.

“Emergency responders are working to ensure persons can get out and secure the areas,” police said.

The tornado was spotted northwest of downtown Nashville and took aim at parts of the city, National Weather Service meteorologist Faith Borden said.

Video posted to Twitter showed what appeared to be extensive damage to an apartment complex.

Blakeley Galbraith, a resident of the Vista Apartments in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood, said the fire department rushed to save people trapped in her building.

It was “chaos,” she said.

“Our apartments got hit the worst in our neighborhood,” Galbraith said. “Cars on top of our garage were overturned.”

There was six inches of standing water in her top-floor apartment when she fled the building, leaving behind “everything,” she said.

People are reflected in a mirror of a building destroyed by storms, on March 3, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn.Mark Humphrey / AP

Main Street in east Nashville was closed at 1:30 a.m. and covered in half-fallen trees and other debris, The Tennessean newspaper of Nashville reported. Part of a building had also collapsed onto the road, the newspaper reported. Photos showed what appeared to be heavy damage to some buildings and vehicles.

Council member Brett Withers tweeted that the Five Points neighborhood took a direct hit.

Nashville schools were to be closed Tuesday because of damage throughout the city, officials said.

It was “a devastating night in Nashville,” U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., tweeted, adding that he would work with the mayor’s office on a request for federal assistance.

“Nashville is hurting, and our community has been devastated,” Mayor John Cooper, the congressman’s brother, wrote on Twitter, encouraging the city’s residents to “lend a helping hand” to their neighbors in the wake of the disaster.

A man walks past storm debris following a deadly tornado, on March 3, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn.Mark Humphrey / AP

At least one death was confirmed in Davidson County, where Nashville is, and four in Putnam County to the east. In Benton County west of Nashville, a man was killed when a tornado hit his house, a county emergency manager told NBC News. At least two people were killed in Wilson County.

Nashville suburbs Mount Juliet and Lebanon appeared hard hit, the National Weather Service said. Police in Mount Juliet, east of Nashville, reported that the town of around 30,000 had significant damaged and multiple injuries.

“We have requested mutual aid from allied agencies. We continue to search for injured. Stay home if you can. Watch for downed power lines,” the police department tweeted.

The sheriff’s office in Wilson County, which is home to Mount Juliet and Lebanon, reported “extensive damage to many homes” and road hazards.

In Putnam County, where the sheriff’s department is reporting at least three deaths, the county mayor, Randy Porter, said in an early morning press conference that the region has extensive power outages and that multiple residents are injured.

Tennessee is one of 14 states voting on Super Tuesday, and some polling locations were damaged in the storm, according to NBC Nashville affiliate WSMV. Certain polling sites in central Tennessee will open one hour later than usual, and officials are working to make sure all locations will be open for the required 10 hours, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said on Twitter.

The National Weather Service said that as of 2:50 a.m., there were no longer tornado warnings in middle Tennessee, but warned that storms in the area had lightning and heavy rain and that 40-50 mph winds were possible. “Storms could quickly become severe, so stay alert!” the weather service tweeted.

Kurt Chirbas contributed.

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