Highway reopens near Nashville as tornado cleanup continues

Power lines down across Nashville, TN highway.

Cleanup has just begun after a line of severe storms passed through central Tennessee, including downtown Nashville, causing major damage to buildings, roads, bridges, utilities lines and businesses in several counties.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) has activated the Tennessee Emergency Management Plan (TEMP) with an all-hands response from state emergency officials, as well as activation of the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC). Gov. Bill Lee has declared a state of emergency, and TEMA is coordinating with local and state partners to make the recovery process as smooth as possible.

A tornado touched down west of Nashville just before 1 a.m. CST Tuesday, hitting the Germantown and Donelson areas of Nashville a short time later. Then the tornado hit just east of Nashville in Hermitage, Mount Juliet (Wilson County), and finally the Cookeville area (Putnam County), about 80 miles east of Nashville.

Sections of Interstate 40 in Wilson County were closed earlier Tuesday due to downed power lines and overturned tractor-trailers, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). TDOT has reopened all lanes in both directions, but some secondary roads remain closed as utility crews work to restore power.

John C. Tune Airport (ICAO code: JWN), Nashville International Airport’s (ICAO: BNA) sister airport in West Nashville, sustained significant damage due to the severe storms, possibly from the tornado itself. Several hangars were destroyed, and power lines are down. In the interest of safety, airport officials have asked the public to avoid John C. Tune until further notice.

Around midday, TEMA officials said Davidson County reported about 48,000 customers without power; Wilson County reported around 17,000 without power; and Putnam and Jackson counties reported approximately 8,000 without power.

TDOT is coordinating with TEMA and local officials to provide resources for storm victims.  Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) is coordinating to deploy resources in Wilson and Putnam counties and is assisting local law enforcement with logistical support. Troopers are also helping keep people out of unsafe, damaged areas, as well as assisting in traffic control. TEMA officials do not want anyone driving into damaged areas, in order to keep available streets and roads clear for emergency personnel.

The Tennessee Department of Health has confirmed that the tornadoes killed 22 people:

  • 16 in Putnam County
  • Three in Wilson County
  • Two in Davidson County
  • One in Benton County

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Nashville noted in a preliminary report the following damage levels:

  • Mount Juliet (Wilson County) — at least EF-3 damage with maximum winds of 155 to 160 mph
  • Donelson (Davidson County) — at least EF-3 damage with maximum winds of 160 to 165 mph

This is just damage observed in these neighborhoods, and the damage might be from the same tornado. The NWS is still assessing storm damage in other locations. Fortunately, there is no more severe weather in the forecast this week for central Tennessee.