NATIONAL NEWS

Tennessee residents clean up after severe weekend storms killed 6 people and damaged neighborhoods

Dec 10, 2023, 2:05 PM | Updated: 2:06 pm

Amber Gardner looks at the debris from a friend's destroyed house in the West Creek Farms neighborh...

Amber Gardner looks at the debris from a friend's destroyed house in the West Creek Farms neighborhood on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, Clarksville, Tenn. Central Tennessee residents and emergency workers are continuing the cleanup from severe weekend storms. (Mark Zaleski, AP photo)

(Mark Zaleski, AP photo)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Central Tennessee residents and emergency workers cleaned up Sunday from severe weekend storms and tornadoes that killed six people and sent dozens more to the hospital while damaging buildings, turning over vehicles and knocking out power to tens of thousands.

Officials confirmed that three people, including a toddler, died after a tornado struck Montgomery County 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Nashville near the Kentucky state line on Saturday afternoon. About 60 people were treated for injuries at area medical facilities, including nine transferred in critical condition to a Nashville hospital, said Jimmie Edwards, Montgomery County’s director of emergency services.

In a neighborhood just north of downtown Nashville, three people were killed Saturday as a result of tornadoes, while 21 total injuries were reported, city officials said. In Nashville, the roof of a church building north of downtown collapsed during the storm, resulting in 13 people being treated at hospitals, Nashville emergency officials said in a news release. They were later listed in stable condition.

Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts said it could be a couple of weeks before power is restored to everyone. Residents of the city of about 166,000 spent Sunday helping one another dig out from the devastating storms, he said.

“We know we have people who are suffering because of loss of life, loss of property,” Pitts said. “One thing I love about this city is that when someone has a need, we rally around that need.”

Multiple tornadoes were tracked

At least six tornado tracks were reported Saturday in central Tennessee, according to the National Weather Service. Agency meteorologist Cory Mueller in Nashville said it was sending out tornado tracking teams on Sunday to attempt to confirm these potential tornadoes and calculate their severity.

Mueller said it wasn’t uncommon for tornadoes to be generated during this time of year.

The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department identified the victims killed north of downtown as Joseph Dalton, 37; Floridema Gabriel Perez, 31; and her son, Anthony Elmer Mendez, 2. Dalton was inside his mobile home when the storm tossed it on top of Perez’s residence. Two other children, one in each home, were taken to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, the department said in a statement. Montgomery County officials did not provide the names of the three people who died in the Clarksville area.

At a news conference with Metropolitan Nashville leaders, Mayor Freddie O’Connell said that over 20 structures had collapsed there as a result of Saturday’s storm and that “countless others have sustained significant damage.”

Nashville Electric Service executive Teresa Broyles-Aplin said electric substations in north Nashville and in nearby Hendersonville suffered significant damage and that outages could last days in some areas.

She said it was possible that a widely distributed video showing a fireball in the Saturday evening sky could have been caused by Nashville Electric equipment.

“That gives you a good idea of the extent of damage that we’re dealing with at some of these substations,” she said.

Residents in the region are familiar with severe weather in late fall. Saturday’s 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.

Ellen Schlavach and Robyn Robichaud said that a tree fell on their house in the Madison neighborhood of Nashville, and many of their neighbors’ homes were damaged worse. They had been out running errands on Saturday and had seen some warnings that a thunderstorm was coming. They realized things were serious after they got back home and received emergency alerts on their phones.

“We very quickly realized that we had to gather up all the pets and hide in the bathroom,” Schlavach said. “The house was shaking. A tree fell on the house. Very loud. Very scary.”

Greg Chance of Nashville said that he was watching the news on Saturday with his wife and daughter and knew there was bad weather coming. Within minutes, they went to their safe place at a spot in the kitchen where there were no windows nearby and sat on the floor.

“And then the next thing we know, it just sounded like an explosion went off. You could hear stuff flying everywhere. It was crazy. It’s crazy. It is terrifying,” he said, emotion rising in his voice as he described the three of them holding onto each other.

He said he worked with Dalton, one of those killed in the storm, at a company that makes fasteners for construction. Chance said he couldn’t sleep knowing that his coworker lost his life and left behind a son. He said the boy and his mother were taken to the hospital with injuries.

Thousands without power

About 41,000 electricity customers were without power in Tennessee Sunday afternoon, according to PowerOutage.us, down from more than 80,000 on Saturday night. School would be closed in Clarksville through Tuesday, officials said.

Shanika Washington said 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 during a harrowing 20 minutes during which she hovered over her children to protect them.

“The blinds and stuff were like shaking really bad,” she said. “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.

The Tennessee recovery continued as points east faced severe weather Sunday. Tornado warnings were posted at midday in and around Raleigh, North Carolina, while powerful storms crossed the state. There were no immediate reports of severe damage or injuries.

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Tennessee residents clean up after severe weekend storms killed 6 people and damaged neighborhoods