Deadly Tennessee storms a good reminder that severe weather can hit anytime

Local News

Emergency personnel work among destroyed homes Tuesday, March 3, 2020, near Cookeville, Tenn. Tornadoes ripped across Tennessee early Tuesday, shredding more than 140 buildings and burying people in piles of rubble and wrecked basements. At least 22 people were killed. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Deadly storms moved through Tennessee destroying homes and taking the lives of at least 24 people so far.  

The storms served as a reminder that we are entering the severe weather season, and a tornado can strike at any time of day or night.  

When the tornado warning was issued over the Nashville area, the National Weather Service used strong wording like “this is PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION. TAKE COVER NOW!
…a large, extremely dangerous and potentially deadly tornado is on the ground. To protect your life, TAKE COVER NOW!”

The sound of sirens and pounding of hail and rain served as a warning, but nothing could prepare people for the scene that they woke up to. Once the sun came up, it reviled damage so extensive that it will take several days to survey.  

But what we know so far is from initial damage surveys is that there could have been multiple high-end EF-3 tornadoes, with estimated wind speeds of 155-165 mph. 

The way that the National Weather Service determines this is by looking at the damage, especially to sturdy buildings like homes. 

This storm was far from typical for an early March night in Tennessee. It had characteristics of what you might see in the middle of “tornado alley” during the middle of the afternoon in the peak of severe weather season. Storm reports included hail reaching golfball, even baseball, sizes ahead of that large, deadly tornado. 

One of the most dangerous parts of the storm was the timing.  

The tornado in the Nashville area was reported around 12:40 in the morning, a time in the middle of the night that is too dark to see the immediate danger, and a time where most of us would be asleep. 

One Nashville area resident said, “We woke up and we heard it going and it was right by our window. We just went to the bathtub, that’s pretty much it. But I was evacuated for a gas leak.  It’s surreal, I feel like I’m in a movie, it’s so sad.”

Another storm survivor said, “It sounded like gunshots going off. We heard the windows blowing in, and then we just saw the water leaking in through the ceiling, so we just grabbed the baby and started to pack everything up as fast as we could.”

Tuesday was primary election day in the state, but this is not the first time Tennessee has seen a tornado outbreak ahead of a big election.

Super Tuesday in 2008 was also filled up with cleanup after several tornadoes, including some reaching EF-3 damage touching down. Click here for a look at the National Weather Service’s evaluations of those storms

Remember the safest place to be during a tornado warning is on the lowest level of a building in an interior room without doors or windows. The reason behind this is to put as much space between yourself and the outside.  

It is also important to have a way to get active alerts about severe weather through reliable resources like the NBC 4 mobile weather app from the Google Play or Apple stores.

You can also stay up to date with the weather every day by checking the app or online at

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