By Keith Sharon
Cars flipped on I-65. Shoppers hunkered down in store basements.
Trees buckled. Homes were ripped apart. Power failed. Roofs were blown off buildings. There were reports of first responders attempting to rescue people trapped in their homes.
The Big Play game center roof collapsed in Hendersonville.
Tornadoes ripped through Middle Tennessee on Saturday afternoon and evening, killing at least six people — including at least one child — in Montgomery and Davidson counties and leaving more than 160,000 Middle Tennessee residents without power.
“This is a sad day for our community,” Montgomery County Mayor Wes Golden said. “We are praying for those who are injured, lost loved ones, and lost their homes. This community pulls together like no other and we will be here until the end.”
Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell urged people to help their neighbors.
“Tonight, Nashville joins other communities across Middle Tennessee grieving loss of life from deadly tornadoes,” he said. “As we continue to take stock of the devastation, please keep our neighbors in your thoughts and prayers. Be safe and look after one another.”
A possible tornado caused several explosions, and church steeples toppled. Heavy rain also caused flooding in Davidson County.
Severe weather swooped across portions of the state with ugly tentacles stretching through Clarksville, Springfield and Madison in Nashville and smashing into Hendersonville.
In Nashville, buses were still running on Old Hickory Blvd around 8 p.m. with nothing but the glow of headlights and brake lights illuminating the street.
Massive downed trees lined the road. In a yard on the corner of North Graycroft and Williams avenues, a Christmas nativity scene remained upright among the rubble.
Lyanne Garay was at her mother’s home in Madison with her four children when they heard the tornado sirens blare. Next door, her mother’s neighbors screamed and abandoned their outside gathering as the wind yanked a tarp away.Garay’s husband was at work.Less than five minutes away on Nesbitt Lane, the tornado ripped through her neighbors’ homes, tearing through roofs and leaving second floor rooms exposed.When she returned home around 5, she found her fence toppled and part of her roof blown off, leaving water damage in her daughter’s upstairs bedroom.”Compared to everybody, we’re fine, but it’s still a shock that we don’t have any place to go or anything to do and our house has been water damaged,” she said.Further down the street, the storm decimated homes and left branches and power lines strewn across the road. Officials confirmed three people in this neighborhood died.Garay is from Costa Rica, and her husband is from El Salvador — they’ve lived here since 2004, but Saturday night’s storm was something new.”We always hear the alarms and everything but never experienced something like that,” she said.
Council member Jennifer Gamble stood clad in a raincoat on Nesbitt Lane and spoke with Garay. Other neighbors whose home was spared stood alongside her, offering support.Gamble asked her constituents to stay inside in a safe place.”There are a lot of power lines and trees down, and it’s hard to see in the dark with the power outages,” she said.
The streets of Hendersonville were pitch black with rows of demolished business and downed power lines on Main Street. Traffic remained backed up for miles well into Saturday night as workers cleared power lines from the streets.
Hendersonville police were handling calls from people trapped in structures on West Main Street. TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center was running on emergency power as storm victims arrived for treatment.
Michael Henderson, an employee at The Outpost Armory on Main Street in Hendersonville, was working when he heard the warning siren.
“We swept as many people as we could inside and the took cover in the basement,” he said. “It was quiet and then it hit. It sounded just like a freight train coming through.”
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