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Tornado moves across Nashville and Middle TN; several confirmed dead

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UPDATE at 4:30PM:

During Governor Lee's afternoon press conference update on today's tornado damage, he said the death toll is now at 24.

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency reports 25 people were killed in overnight tornadoes throughout Tennessee.

The National Weather Service surveyors have found damage equal to at least an EF-3 tornado in Mt. Juliet (Wilson County), with winds between 155 and 160 mph. Surveyors observed damage in Donelson, in Davidson county, showing at least EF-3 tornado damage with winds between 160 and 165 mph. The damage in the Five Points area in East Nashville is also an EF-3 with winds 136 to 140 mph. The tornado that touched down in north Nashville and Germantown is an EF-2 with 125 mph peak winds. The tornado that touched down near John C. Tune and surrounding neighborhoods was a EF-2 with 130 mph winds.

Metro Police identified the two killed in East Nashville as Michael Dolfini, 36, and his grilfriend Albree Sexton, 33. They were struck by debris on McFerrin Avenue early Tuesday when the tornado moved through East Nashville. Sexton died at the scene, Dolfini died shortly after arriving at Skyline Medical Center. Police said the couple had just left Attaboy lounge, where Dolfini worked, when the tornado came through.

Gov. Bill Lee said at a press conference earlier Tuesday morning at least nine people have died in Tennessee as a result of overnight tornadoes that struck throughout the state.

Deaths were reported in Benton, Davidson, Putnam and Wilson counties.

Two people were reported dead in East Nashville, according to Metro Police.

Interstate 40 in Wilson county was closed as the storm passed, due to high power lines breaking down over the interstate.

MTEMC and TDOT were able to reopen both directions of I-40 at noon Tuesday.

Tennessee tornado March 3, 2020

Aerial footage shows homes damaged in Tennessee's Mt. Juliet area on March 3, 2020.

"Last night was a reminder about how fragile life is," Nashville Mayor John Cooper said at a Tuesday morning news conference.

Lee said only essential state employees should report to work on Tuesday because of the weather. He said don’t travel into Nashville if you don’t have to.

Lee said he spoke with The White House this morning. He said The White House asked what they can do. The state is still assessing damage and will apply for federal help once assessed.

Two shelters have been opened in Nashville at East Magnet High School in East Nashville and at Centennial Sportsplex.

Metro Schools announced Tuesday afternoon schools would be closed on Wednesday as the district continues to repair damage and deal with power outages caused by the torando.

"We know that families are facing challenges due to their children suddenly being out of school," said Dr. Adrienne Battle, interim director of Metro Schools, in a news release. "We're sensitive to those issues and eager to get students back in classrooms as soon as possible, but the extent of the tornado's impact requires us to take at least one more day. We appreciate everyone's patience during this extraordinary situation."

Before and after care programs will also be closed. All after school activities are cancelled as well, includiong sports practices and games, except for TSSAA tournament games, performances, parent meetings, etc.

YMCA Fun Company will operate inclement weather sites at the following schools (subject to change based on facility assessment).

  • Hattie Cotton, 1033 W. Greenwood Ave.
  • Harpeth Valley, 2840 Learning Ln.
  • Norman Binkley, 4700 W. Longdale Dr.
  • KIPP Antioch, 3655 Murfreesboro Pike
  • Tulip Grove, 441 Tyler Dr.

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he would be visiting Tennessee later this week to survey the damage.

In Nashville, 30 fire department personnel were injured while responding to calls on Tuesday morning, according to Nashville Fire Department Chief William Swann.

Swann said 48 buildings in Nashville have collapsed. Search crews are going door-to-door now searching for people.

The most heavily damaged areas include Germantown, East Nashville, Donelson and Hermitage.

Cooper and Interim Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle will be touring Robert Churchwell Elementary School, 1625 Dr. DB Todd Jr. Blvd.

In Nashville, Bridgestone Arena will open at 11 a.m. to provide meals for those impacted by the tornadoes.

WeGo Transit said several routes are still impacted by by the storms.

The 9 MetroCenter route will not operate due to road conditions.

The following routes will operate on detours due to road conditions:

  • 4 Shelby
  • 6 Lebanon Pike - will only operate between downtown Nashville and Donelson Station
  • 14 Whites Creek
  • 22 Bordeaux
  • 23 Dickerson Pike
  • 29 Jefferson
  • 42 St. Cecilia/Cumberland
  • 56 Gallatin Pike

The WeGo Star train will not operation Tuesday afternoon due to track conditions.

A limited number of Regional bus trips will run Tuesday afternoon due to road conditions. Buses will run on the following schedules:

  • 87 Gallatin: First trip, departing at 3:22 p.m.
  • 88 Dickson: First trip departing at 4 p.m.
  • 89 Springfield/Joelton: First trip, departing at 3:48 p.m.
  • 91 Franklin: First and second trips, departing at 3:45 pm. and 4:08 p.m.
  • 92 Hendersonville: Second trip, departing at 3:47 p.m.
  • 94 Clarksville: Second and third trips, departing at 3:45 pm. and 4:15 p.m.
  • 95 Spring Hill: First trip, departing at 3:35 p.m.

Putnam County officials later said at least three people have died from the storm and then a short time later, Benton County authorities confirmed another person was killed inside a mobile home that overturned on Ballard Rd. At least 25 homes in Benton County have been damaged and three or four of the homes are total losses. 

Another person was reported dead around 6:24 a.m., but the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), did not know where the person died. 

Authorities in Putnam County say at around 2 a.m., a confirmed tornado touched down between the city limits of Cookeville and Baxter. The worst hit areas in Putnam County are:

  • Highway 70 west of Cookeville
  • Charleton Square
  • Plunk Whitson
  • Echo Valley
  • Prosperity Point
  • N. Mcbroom Chapel 
  • Double Springs Utility District

The area south of Buffalo Valley and north of Peach Orchard appear to be okay. Power is out in the areas and authorities are going house to house on foot to check on everyone in the affected areas. Residents are asked to keep the roadways free while authorities render first aid, find missing people and work to clear roads. 

As the storm moved through the western counties of Middle Tennessee into the Metro Nashville area, NWS spotter and viewer reports of a possible storm began coming in.

National Weather Service radar indicated a possible tornado over the northern part of Nashville, crossing the East Nashville area. 

The eastbound storm cell moving approximately 45 miles per hour, and radar wind speeds indicated the potential for rotation was moving between Donelson and Hermitage, approaching the Davidson and Wilson county line at 12:50AM.

The storm continued across Hermitage and Old Hickory, moving toward Mount Juliet at 12:57AM.

There appeared to be a defined tornado moving across north Nashville towards Hermitage earlier on a WSMV tower headed the east.

The Mount Juliet police department Tweeted out a warning that the city had likely been hit by a tornado around 1 a.m.

The tornado continued eastward through 1:15 a.m. and passed south of downtown Lebanon, but continued to show a possible debris ball.

One Twitter users said she wouldn't have been woken if not for the Davidson County tornado sirens.

The tornado warning continued to be extended for Wilson county through 1:30 a.m.

Reports of damage have been coming in from across the area to varying degrees, and as the storm moved to the east the reports of increased damage from the storm.

The Benton County Mayor notified the National Weather Service of damage and injuries in their community.

Another Twitter user caught a photo of what looks like a tornado over Nashville.

News4 reporter Ryan Breslin headed to Germantown to investigate damage reports from that area near downtown Nashville, and found one apartment complex had been evacuated due to a gas leak.

Reporter Cameron Taylor also spotted lots of damage in Germantown a few blocks from First Horizon Park. 

Popular eateries were also damaged, including Burger Up and Clean Juice in East Nashville. 

Another shelter is currently open at East Magnet High School located at 110 Gallatin Avenue. Hadley Park Community Center will be open for voting today at 7 a.m. and will not be a shelter location. Centennial Sportsplex, located at 222 25th Ave. N., is also serving as a shelter.

Mount Juliet Police have also announced they have established a community shelter for those displaced by the storm at Victory Baptist Church, located at 1777 Tate Lane. 

Nashville Electric Service reports just over 47,000 customers are without power. 

Crews are out assessing the damage and are able to report damage to four substations, 15 primary distribution lines as well as multiple power poles and lines. 

NES crews would like to remind the public if you see a downed wire, stay away and call 911. Crews are working as quickly as possible to assess the damage and restore power. Crews will keep working until all power is restored, but safety is NES's top priority. 

The tornado is also affecting Super Tuesday in the Mid-State:

Nashville International Airport (BNA) has reported its sister airport John C. Tune Airport (JWN) sustained significant damage due to the storm. Thankfully, there were no reported injuries, but several hangers were destroyed and power lines are down. 

The public is asked to avoid JWN until further notice. The Airport Authority has activated its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the response. 

Nashville International Airport reports no apparent damage following an inspection. BNA is fully operational at this time and all flights arrived safely. Morning flights will take off as scheduled. 

WeGo has also announced delays and cancellations to its routes due to the storm damage.

Metro Nashville Public schools has announced schools will be closed Tuesday, March 3 due to the tornado damage.

District offices will remain open and 12 month employees should report to work. Election polling sites at Metro Schools will be open unless otherwise noted. 

Wilson County Schools will also be closed Tuesday, March 3 and for the rest of the week, including for Kids Club and all 12-month employees. All 12-month employees should report as scheduled on March 4, 5 and 6. 

Mayor John Cooper tweeted a statement saying: 

Nashville is hurting, and our community has been devastated. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones. Be sure to lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need, and let's come together as a community once more. Together, we will get through this and come out stronger. I am currently working with those at the Emergency Operations Center and receiving regular updates and damage assessment reports. I am also working closely with federal contacts on all recovery assistance options. A more comprehensive media update is coming up this morning.