by Sofia Rossi
A series of deadly tornadoes and severe weather conditions tore through seven major counties in the middle of Tennessee on Mar. 3. The disaster left 25 people dead, dozens injured, and over 140 buildings destroyed in the hours between midnight and daybreak.
The National Weather Service reported that the most destructive tornado of the night measured at least a level three on the EF scale. Traveling at speeds greater than 140 miles per hour, the storms wrecked more than 10 miles of Nashville, including the upper tower and stained glass window of a historic church downtown. A second tornado leveled over 100 structures within a two-mile radius of Putnam County – the region hit hardest by these extreme weather conditions.
Tennessee governor Bill Lee deployed the National Guard to oversee search-and-rescue missions after declaring a level three State of Emergency. Devastated communities saw people coming together to help afflicted individuals in the face of irreversible loss. Lee confirmed the community spirit inspired by the disasters: “In the worst of circumstances, the best of people comes out, and that’s what we’re seeing.”
Of the 25 people found dead in the wreckage by search committees, five were children under the age of 13. Hundreds of people lost their homes and many have been forced to rely on community centers for shelter. To supplement emergency shelters, Airbnb hosts are providing free housing to displaced individuals as part of the Airbnb Open Homes program through Mar. 24.
Extreme weather across central Tennessee also affected the state’s primary elections. Amidst damage to many of the state’s Super Tuesday polling locations, many voters were displaced and sent to crowded and remote voting centers. Eight precincts redirected to Putnam County’s main election office, leading to a problematic influx of voters at a single location. As a result, Democratic presidential candidates successfully sued to extend voting hours at several locations across Tennessee.
President Trump visited the wreckage in Nashville and Putnam County on Mar. 6, promising federal aid after declaring a state of disaster in Tennessee. The majority of funds will be directed to the counties of Putnam, Wilson, and Davidson where communities face the most severe damage.
To further aid in relief efforts, celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Chris Young, and Johnny Van Zant have donated millions of dollars primarily to the Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund. The Tennessee Titans also matched Swift’s one million dollar donation to provide resources to individuals in affected communities.
(Sources: The Hill, WBNS-10TV, News Channel 5 Nashville, NPR)