At Least 6 Dead After Severe Storms, Tornadoes Hit Tennessee

Severe storms that tore through central Tennessee killed six people Saturday and sent at least 60 others to area hospitals, as homes and businesses were damaged in multiple cities. Almost 40,000 electricity customers were still without power across Tennessee on Sunday morning, according to the tracking site poweroutage.us.

Saturday, December 9th 2023, 7:35 pm

By: CBS News


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Severe storms that tore through central Tennessee killed six people Saturday and sent at least 60 others to area hospitals, as homes and businesses were damaged in multiple cities. Almost 40,000 electricity customers were still without power across Tennessee on Sunday morning, according to the tracking site poweroutage.us.

Three people, including a child, were killed after a tornado struck Montgomery County north of Nashville near the Kentucky state line, county officials said in a news release. And the Nashville Emergency Operation Center said in a post on a social media account that another three people were killed by severe storms there. 

Montgomery County officials said 62 people were treated for injuries at hospitals overnight. Nine of the injured were transferred from area hospitals to Vanderbilt Medical Center. Jimmy Edwards, chief of Montgomery County Emergency Services, described their conditions as "critical" and "unstable."

Officials in the city of Clarksville, which is about 50 miles northwest of Nashville and where a 9 p.m. curfew was in effect Sunday for the second night in a row, confirmed three deaths linked to the storm at a news conference. At the time, Clarksville Fire Chief Freddie Montgomery said teams, including special operations crews, were still carrying out secondary searches in the area. 

Fire officials responded to one structure fire Sunday morning and received "a lot of other medical calls, and calls related to that," Montgomery told reporters. Different parts of the city sustained different levels of damage, Edwards added. He said homes in some areas were "totally destroyed," while the damage in other areas ranged from "slight" to "heavy."

Earlier, Nashville police identified three of the victims killed as the storm hit a mobile home community in Madison, a neighborhood in the northeastern part of the city. They were identified as 37-year-old Joseph Dalton, 31-year-old Floridema Gabriel Perez and her son, 2-year-old Anthony Elmer Mendez. Police said in a news release that Dalton was inside his mobile home "when the strength of the storm rolled it on top of Perez's residence." Two other children, Perez's 7-year-old son and Dalton's 10-year-old son, were also inside their respective homes when the storm hit. The two kids were transported to a pediatric hospital with injuries that are not considered life-threatening, according to police.

A building collapse at a Nashville church sent 13 people to local hospitals, the Nashville Office of Emergency Management reported late Saturday night. The patients were all in stable condition. 

The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office noted it was "still in the search and rescue phase of this disaster."

"We've been hit very hard by a tornado here in Clarksville and Montgomery County," Montgomery County Mayor Wes Golden said in a video posted to social media Saturday evening.

Photos posted by the Clarksville fire department on social media showed damaged houses with debris strewn in the lawns, a tractor trailer flipped on its side on a highway and insulation ripped out of building walls.

"We still have a lot of power lines down, there are a lot of areas that are unsafe," Golden said.

Residents were asked to stay at home while first responders evaluated the situation. 

"We know there's extensive damage throughout the community, so we need to take care of families who are desperately in need of help," Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts said in the video.

The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office said in an earlier statement that a tornado touched down around 2 p.m. local time. A shelter was set up at a local high school.

Nashville Mayor Freddie O'Connell declared a state of emergency to allow for the city to receive state and federal emergency resources.

"Tonight, Nashville joins other communities across Middle Tennessee grieving loss of life from deadly tornadoes," O'Connell wrote on social media. "As we continue to take stock of the devastation, please keep our neighbors in your thoughts and prayers. Be safe and look after one another."

The Nashville Office of Emergency Management said that "a large and extremely dangerous tornado" that was moving east was reported by the National Weather Service in White Bluff, a town about 30 miles east of Nashville, and severe weather hit the Nashville area at about 4 p.m. local time. 

Shanika Washington told the Associated Press that as soon as she heard the storm sirens going off in her Clarksville neighborhood, she took her children, ages 5 and 10, to a windowless bathroom in the basement of her townhouse.

"The lights were flickering, so I knew it was somewhere close in the vicinity," she said. "I just kept praying to God as it was going on. It was very terrifying and scary."

During their 20 harrowing minutes in the bathroom, Washington hovered over her children as a protective shield.

"The back door absolutely did fly open, and you just heard a bunch of wind," she said. "The blinds and stuff were like shaking really bad. I could tell that we were dead smack in the middle of a storm."

When she came out of the bathroom, she looked out of a window and saw the destruction: Debris swept onto cars that had their windows broken out. Shutters ripped from homes. Some roofs were ripped off townhouses. Air conditioning units and backyard grills were tossed like toys, and wooden dividers between townhouses were missing.

Because the power in the area was out, Washington took her children to a hotel for the night.

"I'm still shaken up a little bit, so I probably won't get much sleep tonight," Washington said. "I'm still trying to just kind of like process it all."

More than 56,000 customers were without power in Tennessee as of late Saturday night, according to utility tracker PowerOutage.us. The city of Springfield, located about 30 miles east of Clarksville, reported Saturday night that power was out to the entire city, and asked its residents to stay off the roads. 

The National Weather Service issued multiple tornado warnings in Tennessee, and said it planned to survey an area where an apparent tornado hit in Kentucky.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said he and his wife, Maria, were praying for all Tennesseans who had been affected by the storms.

"We mourn the lives lost and ask that everyone continue to follow guidance from local and state officials," Lee said in a statement.

The storm came nearly two years to the day after the National Weather Service recorded 41 tornadoes through a handful of states, including 16 in Tennessee and eight in Kentucky. A total of 81 people died in Kentucky alone. 

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