Three people are dead, including a child, and nearly two dozen were being treated for injuries at a local hospital after a tornado tore through the middle of Tennessee on Saturday, officials said.
Police and firefighters in Clarksville were responding to multiple reports of damage in the northern part of the city, which is north of Nashville near the Kentucky state line. Photos posted by the local 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.
“This is devastating news and our hearts are broken for the families of those who lost loved ones,” said Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts in a statement. “The city stands ready to help them in their time of grief.”
No other information about the victims was immediately available Saturday.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that a tornado touched down around 2 p.m. The statement said that there were no confirmed injuries or missing people but that it was continuing to search the area.
A shelter was set up at a local high school.
Residents were asked to stay at home while first responders evaluated the situation. In a briefing shared on social media, Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts said there was extensive damage.
“So please, if you need help, call 911 and help will be on the way immediately. But if you can, please stay home. Do not get out on the roads. Our first responders need time and space,” he said.
Clarksville city spokesman Jimmy Settle said in an email that he didn’t have any further information on the number of structures damaged or possible injuries.
Allie Phillips, who lives in Clarksville, said she was grabbing lunch when she began receiving notifications of the tornado that was quickly approaching her neighborhood.
“It was excruciating watching the live stream and not knowing if my house was still there,” she said. “When we finally decided to leave, the road to my home was shut down because so many power lines were on the road and we had to take a detour.”
Phillips said her home survived with minimal damage – noting that her daughter’s toys were banged up and that a neighbor’s dog kennel hit the back of her home – but she was saddened to see that her neighbor’s house was missing a roof and a home up the block had all but completely disappeared.
“This doesn’t happen enough that you’re ever prepared for it,” she said.
The National Weather Service issued multiple tornado warnings in Tennessee, and said it planned to survey an area where an apparent tornado hit in Kentucky.
About 85,000 electricity customers were without power in Tennessee on Saturday night, according to PowerOutage.us.
The 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.