NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A devastating storm system tore its way across Tenn. early Tuesday morning. Early findings by National Weather Service survey teams indicated that the damage just east of Nashville was inflicted by a tornado of at least EF-3 intensity, the agency said, according to The Associated Press.
With the long-held dreamer’s moves to “Music City, U.S.A.” and tourist attractions, Mercer County residents were left worried about their family and friends in the areas affected by the storms and tornadoes.
One of those Mercer County dreamers is Todd Cameron, Princeton, W.Va. native and member of the popular country-rock band, Adairs Run.
“I am actually on the outskirts of Nashville, like Bluefield to Princeton distance. It is within 15 minutes away,” Cameron said on Tuesday afternoon. “I have not seen everything, but I have seen enough.”
Cameron said he slept through most of the storm, but when he awoke around 12:45 a.m., his phone was alight with alerts and the sky alight with lightning.
“It was lightning every second so, it was getting bad but it was still tracking south of where I am,” Cameron said. “From my understanding, the funnel cloud was on the ground for almost an hour. It is unreal. In this area, we had a little bit of hail and bad wind gusts. I was not in the heart of where it was. It did not touch down until it moved into Davidson County, where Nashville is.”
This is by far the worst tornado that Cameron has experienced, but not the first. He said when he moved to Nashville in 2012, a smaller tornado touched down in his neighborhood.
“I had just moved to Nashville, I had not been here two months in 2012 and a small tornado touched down and ran through. It did some local damage and ran through the neighborhood I was living in,” Cameron said. “I remember being on the top floor of an apartment building, thinking ‘this is great, welcome to Nashville. This is why I miss my mountain mama.”
According to the Associated Press, Tuesday morning’s storm and tornado wrecked homes and businesses across a 10-mile stretch of Nashville that included parts of downtown. It smashed more than three dozen buildings, including destroying the tower and stained glass of a historic church. Another tornado damaged more than 100 structures along a 2-mile path of destruction in Putnam County, Tenn. wiping some homes from their foundations and depositing the wreckage far away.
Delnora Reed, a singer-songwriter originally from Princeton lives in one of the worst-hit areas of Nashville. According to an article from NewsChannel 5, Nashville, Cookeville, Tenn., where Reed resides, suffered hard in the tornado. Their numbers at the time of print were, 17 dead and 71 injured in Putnam County alone.
Reed took a break from volunteering at her local church to speak to The Bluefield Daily Telegraph about her experience.
“We usually don’t get as freaked out about it after so many crying wolves with watches and warnings,” Reed said. “Everyone was sleeping and I was kind of stir crazy you could feel it was a bad storm, I woke my husband and then the phones went off and then the sirens. I didn’t know, I just felt it. I grabbed the baby, he grabbed some blankets, it was starting to hit the house and we were trying to get to our basement we knew that was the safest place in the house.”
Reed and her family stayed in the basement until around 5 a.m. on Tuesday. They had lost all cell signal and sat in fear in the basement.
“Usually, your phone will run on cellular, but there was so much going on,” Reed said. “Those are the moments, we just started praying and asking God for peace and praying for our neighbors. When we started praying for peace, our phones lit up and we could receive text messages.”
Reed and her husband were able to reach out to friends via text message and realized it was safe to emerge from their basement. Their house lost a few shingles, but she said she was not able to talk about it, in light of the tragedy surrounding her.
“We just wanted to be able to help with the community, I don’t even know, it is just something you do when you need to be able to help,” Reed said. “Even when we were in the basement we were wondering what we could do. I think that came from a place of frustration being there.”
“I wished we could help go find people and we knew there were people trapped. I have a dear friend near Echo Valley and her whole street was leveled,” Reed said tearfully. “I had to put my faith in God because she saw kids wandering around outside and she found them and he asked if God had done this and here we are, he spared us. He is almighty and we live in a fallen and broken world. We put our faith in him that he has a bigger plan.”
Reed said her family is completely fine, but their surroundings are overwhelming. There is debris everywhere due to the tornado touching down only a few miles from her home.
“I think I slept a half-hour today and then my family was calling. I wanted to talk to them, but I didn’t want to wake them and scare them before I had to,” Reed said. “We got our electricity back up about 10 a.m. today. My friend Brandy came up from Lebanon, Tenn. and they told her that it might be two days before she gets electricity.”
Reed asked if anyone wanted to help her area in particular, to visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
“It is when something like this happens that you realize. You put faith in God, in people and their nature and willingness to help out in a moment like this,” Reed said. “It is reaffirming, you think there is not much good in the world, but you get to see the best in people emerge.”
“The community here is awesome, Nashville is full of musicians and I have literally seen every musician taking their platform along with county officials, donations, shelter, sharing where emergency resources are,” Cameron said. “I have seen multiple posts, including myself offering up support and a place to stay. Nashville has a super-strong community between musicians and locals.”
Cameron acknowledged that while the good hearts of Tennesseans want to get out there and help in search and rescue efforts, he encouraged everyone to not get in the way of local and state officials. “It is for our safety,” he said. “All the traffic lights are out and its a gridlock on the interstate. They (officials) have just said, ‘please stay home if you don’t have to be out.”
According to the Associated Press, damage to the power grid left more than 44,000 customers in the dark. The weather also damaged gas lines, water mains and cellphone towers, making the rescue and recovery efforts much more difficult, authorities said.
“The power went off two times where I was,” Cameron said. “I still have several friends that are without power right now especially on the East Nashville side. Everyone is such a tight group they are offering up housing. I have several friends with blown-out windows.”
While he acknowledged that any loss of life is devastating, Cameron said he was relieved to see lower numbers on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, as searches of the torn and twisted remains of buildings continued, the death toll rose steadily throughout Tuesday.
“Unfortunately it started out as two and any loss of life is terrible but the worse part just came out as 22,” Cameron said. “I have not heard that it (the death toll) is expected to rise. We are praying it does not.”
Cameron was not able to make it to his job at the Pepsi plant on Tuesday. He said he heard that the building was hit hard and authorities were still assessing the damage. He plans to try to return on Wednesday, in his truck, to try to get a pallet to distribute water at the designated stations throughout the city.
“This is not going to be an overnight fix, this is about getting back to basic necessities and then rebuilding,” Cameron said.
According to the Associated Press, hundreds of people went to a Red Cross shelter at the Nashville Farmers Market, just north of the state Capitol, but a power outage there forced them to move again to the Centennial Sportsplex.
Cameron said to anyone back home (Mercer County) looking to help the relief efforts in Nashville, that he is a big supporter of The Salvation Army and the American Red Cross.
“I always tell folks if you type this is in, there is going to be an unlimited amount where you can donate to,” Cameron said. “I don’t know when, but I know the musicians are going to get together and give back as well. There is an unbelievable sense of community here.”
— Contact Emily Rice at email@example.com