At least 24 people in Tennessee have died after tornado activity ripped through Nashville and nearby counties early Tuesday morning, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.
A powerful and deadly storm moving through Middle Tennessee spawned a tornado that touched down in Nashville early Tuesday morning, cutting a swath of destruction that stretched through the city for miles.
The storm destroyed portions of several neighborhoods and business districts in the central part of Nashville before moving into the city’s eastern suburbs and beyond. Tornadoes impacted several counties in West and Middle Tennessee, according to damage reports cited by TEMA.
“There are still people that are unaccounted for … we don’t know the specific numbers about that right now,” Lee said at a press conference on Tuesday evening.
In Putnam County, located more than 50 miles east of Nashville, 77 people were still missing, Putnam County leaders said at a Tuesday night press briefing. It’s unclear how many of the missing people could be injured; many disasters have missing persons who eventually turn up unharmed. Power outages in the regions where the twisters struck could also be hampering efforts for officials to find missing people.
Tuesday was the USA’s deadliest day for tornadoes since March 2, 2012, when 40 people died in twisters that hit portions of the Midwest and South.
Sirens and cellphone alerts sounded, but the twisters that struck in the hours after midnight moved so quickly that many people in their path could not flee to safer areas. Some of the victims were killed in their beds.
“It hit so fast, a lot of folks didn’t have time to take shelter,” Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter said. “Many of these folks were sleeping.”
What was the Nashville tornado path?
The tornado touched down north of downtown Nashville shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday and then destroyed several buildings in Germantown.
From there, the storm moved to the east, pounding the Five Points area of East Nashville and surrounding neighborhoods
The storm continued its eastward path, hitting Donelson, Mt. Juliet and Lebanon County particularly hard.
The storm then continued to the east, moving into Putnam County.
How many people were injured?
The total number of injuries is currently unknown, according to a Tuesday evening TEMA report.
Putnam County officials reported 88 injuries at a Tuesday night press briefing.
More than 30 people have been treated for storm-related injuries at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, hospital officials said Tuesday morning. Most appear to have been hurt by flying debris.
Lee has said many are injured. The governor, who declared a state of emergency for Tennessee, noted that 30 rescue workers have suffered injuries.
Who are the victims?
Three people were killed in the Mt. Juliet suburb of Nashville.
One couple in their 80s were killed at their home. James and Donna Eaton, 84 and 81, respectively, were identified by police about 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The Eatons were in their bedroom, and an official said their house was “completely destroyed.”
Brandy Barker, 38, of Lebanon was working security at a warehouse when the storm moved through.
Barker had sheltered in a bathroom at the facility, but a wall collapsed on top of her, officials said.
Carl Frazee, 67, died in Benton County. Sheriff Kenny Christopher told the Tennessean that Frazee and a woman living in a mobile home north east of Camden, were tossed onto their yard where trees were strewn. Frazee died from “many injuries” at the emergency room, he said.
Additionally, Metro Nashville Police have identified a couple killed by tornado debris in East Nashville as Michael Dolfini, 36, Albree Sexton, 33.
Children were reported to be among the dead in Putnam County, which includes the town of Cookeville.
“There were some children, I’m sorry to say,” Porter said.
How extensive is the damage?
The storm left “piles of rubble and the devastation of buildings and neighborhoods,” Lee said Tuesday night.
At least 140 buildings were shredded by the storm, which left more than 50,000 people without power Tuesday night, TEMA reports. Roads, bridges and utilities were also damaged.
Was primary voting impacted?
The disaster impacted voting in Tennessee, one of 14 Super Tuesday states. Some polling sites in Nashville were moved, and sites across Davidson and county and Wilson counties were opening an hour late but still closing at the same time, Secretary of State Tre Hargett announced.
How do I help victims?
The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has created a donation site to support communities affected by the deadly tornado.
The foundation announced early Tuesday morning that it activated its Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund. The fund provides grants to nonprofits helping victims address ongoing needs.
The grants will fund nonprofits for immediate and long-term response to the storm damage.
To donate, visit cfmt.org/story/middle-tennessee-emergency-response-fund
Has a tornado struck Nashville before?
This isn’t the first time a tornado has ripped through Music City.
In 1933 and again in 1998, tornadoes followed a similar direction that the National Weather Service says was close but not quite exactly the path of the March 3 tornado.
Still, both the April 16, 1998, and March 14, 1933, tornadoes struck the 5 points area of East Nashville, the NWS reported in a tweet.
This is is also not the only tornado to hit Nashville on a Super Tuesday. A nighttime system caused damage across Middle Tennessee during a tornado outbreak on Feb. 5-6, 2008.
Will the president visit Tennessee?
President Donald Trump tweeted his support on 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.”
The president said he will travel to Tennessee on Friday to tour the damage.
Contributing: Mariah Timms, Brett Kelman, Sandy Mazza, and Anita Wadhwani, Nashville Tennessean; The Associated Press