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

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A car is buried under rubble on Main Street after a tornado hit Hendersonville, Tennessee, on Dec. 9, 2023. 
Andrew Nelles/usa Today Network | Via Reuters

Central Tennessee residents and emergency workers cleaned up Sunday from severe weekend storms and tornadoes that killed six people and sent 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. Some 23 people were treated for injuries at hospitals in the county, officials said in a news release.

In a neighborhood just north of downtown Nashville, three people were killed Saturday as a result of tornadoes, the city’s Emergency Operation Center said in a social media post.

National Weather Service meteorologists said in a posting on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, said the destructive tornadoes were spawned in the Clarksville and Nashville areas.

In Nashville, the roof of a church 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.

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. Video footage from the Tennessee storms showed a ball of fire rising from behind a row of homes into the sky.

A curfew was in effect both Saturday night and Sunday night in Clarksville, where officials on Sunday urged motorists to keep away from the damaged areas so as not to impede the work of first responders and utility crews.

“We are praying for those who are injured, lost loved ones, and lost their homes,” Montgomery County Mayor Wes Golden said in a news release. “This community pulls together like no other and we will be here until the end.”

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.

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 and Clarksville officials didn’t immediately respond early Sunday to requests for information about the three deaths in their area and the injuries.

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.

About 45,000 electricity customers were without power in Tennessee early Sunday, according to PowerOutage.us., down from more than 80,000 on Saturday night.

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

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said a tornado touched down around 2 p.m. Saturday.

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 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 trying to just kind of like process it all,” she said.

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