March 3 (UPI) — At least 22 people died Tuesday after a tornado swept through Nashville and surrounding areas of Middle Tennessee.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said the twister caused damage across four counties, with the greatest toll in Putnam County, where 16 people died.
Police said 40 buildings collapsed when the tornado hit early Tuesday, and damage in metro Nashville stretched for at least 20 miles. The roof of a middle school was torn off, and extensive damage was reported along Interstate 40 in Wilson County east of the city with hundreds of people displaced.
Serious damage was also reported in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood. Its popular farmers market was converted into a makeshift shelter, while the city’s Five Points neighborhood was described by reporters as “half-destroyed.”
Nashville Mayor John Cooper said at least 20 people were hospitalized.
“Nashville is hurting, and our community has been devastated,” he tweeted. “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.”
Tuesday’s storm cut power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses, and Nashville schools were closed.
State officials said they were working to ensure that voters in stricken areas of Tennessee would be able to participate in Tuesday’s presidential primary, although voting wasn’t scheduled to begin until later in storm-hit areas.
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said voting would go on, and he was working “to ensure polls in affected counties are open.”
President Donald Trump acknowledged the devastation on Twitter, sending out “prayers for all of those affected” and indicating he would travel to Tennessee on Friday to tour the damage.