Tornadoes kill at least 22 in Tennessee and damage Nashville airport
Tornadoes tore through Tennessee overnight killing at least 22 people and causing severe damage to at least 140 buildings, including a Nashville Airport.
Nashville John C. Tune Airport (JWN), the largest dedicated GA gateway in Tennessee, was extensively damaged last night. According to aerial photos and video of the scene, at least 4 hangars were completely devastated, including one showing five jets amidst the ruins, along with several smaller aircraft.
More single-engine aircraft were shown strewn across the tarmac. A spokesperson from the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, which owns and manages JWN said the airport is closed as crews continue to assess the damage, but confirmed there was damage to the Contour FBO, the lone service provider on the field.
Authorities have described the efforts to find survivors in residential and city areas as painstaking as they work through the piles of debris. The death toll continues to climb as emergency responders sift their way through the rubble and wrecked basements of homes.
One twister caused severe damage across a 10-mile (16 kilometer) stretch of downtown Nashville, wrecking businesses and homes and destroying the tower and stained glass of a historic church. Another erased homes from their foundations along a two-mile (3.2-kilometer) path in Putnam County.
Daybreak revealed a landscape littered with blown-down walls and roofs, snapped power lines and huge broken trees, leaving city streets in gridlock. Schools, courts, transit lines, an airport and the state Capitol were closed, and some damaged polling stations had to be moved only hours before Super Tuesday voting began.
The death toll jumped to 19 on Tuesday, Tennessee Emergency Management Spokeswoman Maggie Hannan said, after police and fire crews spent hours pulling survivors and bodies from wrecked buildings.
Residents of the historic Germantown neighborhood walked around in dismay as emergency crews closed off roads. Roofs had been torn off apartment buildings, large trees uprooted and debris littered many sidewalks. Walls were toppled, exposing living rooms and kitchens in damaged homes. Mangled power lines and broken trees came to rest on cars, streets and piles of rubble.
The tornadoes were spawned by a line of severe storms with a line of storms that stretched from near Montgomery, Alabama, into western Pennsylvania.
In Nashville, it tore through areas transformed by a recent building boom. Germantown and East Nashville are two of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods, with restaurants, music venues, high-end apartment complexes and rising home prices threatening to drive out long-time residents.
One tornado touched down near downtown reportedly stayed on the ground for about 10 miles (16 kilometers), into Nashville’s eastern suburbs, following a path parallel to Interstate 40 and causing more damage in Mt. Juliet, Lebanon, Hermitage and other communities.
Videos posted online showed what appeared to be a well-defined tornado moving quickly across the Nashville area, flashing with lightning as it ripped open living rooms and exposed kitchens to the elements. Metro Nashville police said crews were responding to about 40 building collapses.
Among them was a popular music venue that had just held an election rally for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The crowd left shortly before the twister struck the Basement East Nashville, the Tennessean reported.
The disaster affected 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.
A reported gas leak forced an evacuation of the IMT building in Germantown, according to a local news station. Dozens of people, suddenly homeless, were seen carrying their belongings through garbage-strewn streets after the tornado blew through.
Nashville Electric tweeted that four of its substations were damaged in the tornado. Power outages were affecting more than 44,000 customers early Tuesday, the utility company said.
The governor’s spokeswoman, Gillum Ferguson, said hundreds of people went to a Red Cross shelter for displaced residents at the Nashville Farmers Market, just north of the state capitol, but a power outage there forced people to move again to the Centennial Sportsplex.
The outage also extended to the Capitol, forcing the cancellation of legislative meetings.
Metro Nashville Public Schools said its schools would be closed Tuesday because of the tornado damage. Wilson County, just east of metro Nashville will close schools for the rest of the week.
The storm system left just scattered rain in its wake as it moved eastward. Strong cells capable of causing damage were spotted in central Alabama, eastern Tennessee and the western Carolinas.
Early morning storms also damaged homes and toppled trees in rural central Alabama, where the National Weather Service reported winds up to 60 mph (97 kmh) and issued tornado warnings for at least five counties.
In rural Bibb County southwest of Birmingham, seven poll workers were getting ready to open the doors to Super Tuesday voters at the Lawley Senior Activity Center when cellphone alerts began sounding a tornado warning about 6:45 a.m., said volunteer Gwen Thompson. She said they were voting by flashlight.