Death toll rising, widespread tornado damage in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, TN — Channel 2 Action News has traveled to ground zero of the deadly tornado outbreak in Tennessee.

At least 24 people died but many more people are still missing.

Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Brian Monahan was in east Nashville where the National Weather Service confirmed an EF-3 touched down early Tuesday morning.

The tornado in Nashville was just one of three to hit Tennessee. Eighteen people died in Putnam County, Tennessee, officials said Tuesday night, after earlier in the day reporting that 19 had died there.

Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter released the names of the victims Wednesday morning:

  • Jessica Clark – Female in 30s
  • Amanda Cole – 34-year-old female
  • Hattie Collins – 3 to 4-year-old female
  • Dawson Curtis – 6 to 7-year-old female
  • Terry Curtis – 54 year old male
  • Joshua Kimberlin – Male in 30s
  • Sawyer Kimberlin – 2 to 3-year-old male
  • Erin Kimberlin – Female in 30s
  • Todd Koehler – Male in 50s
  • Sue Koehler – Female in 50s
  • Patricia Lane – 67-year-old female
  • Leisha Littenberry – 28-year-old female
  • Harlan Marsh – 4 to 5-year-old male
  • Bridgette (Ann Marie) McCormick – 12 to 13 year old female
  • Keith Selby – Male
  • Cathy Selby – Female
  • Jamie Smith – 30 to 35-year-old female
  • Stephanie Fields – Female in 30s

Deaths were also reported in Wilson, Davidson and Benton counties:

A state of emergency was declared in Tennessee as a result of the damage.

About 47,000 are without power and dozens of building have collapsed, officials said.

Channel 2’s Matt Johnson was in East Nashville for a look at the damage on Wednesday afternoon.

“We're just fortunate. Just look around… fortunate that we're still here,” homeowner Brad Price said.

The destruction at Price’s house was not even the first thing on his mind after Tuesday’s tornadoes.

“First and foremost, I was just happy I was able to hug my kids, you know?” Price said.

He said he rushed home to check on his children then realized a tornado destroyed his home.

Many of his neighbors’ homes in east Nashville are also a loss.

The long road to rebuilding this community is being paved in part by local business owners like Bram Kane who are tarping damaged homes in Nashville for free.

On Wednesday, survivors, neighbors, and strangers were picking up tools and pitching in to help in a neighborhood off 16th Street.

At the church of Lockeland Springs, the steeple stood for more than 100 years before the tornado touched down overnight Tuesday.

Outside the church is where volunteers are signing up to help deliver supplies and go to work on damaged houses across the city.

“That beauty that is beginning to grow from these ashes is overwhelming and life-changing,” Pastor David Hannah of the Church of Lockeland Springs said.

Channel 2′s Matt Johnson watched Wednesday as the community came together for cleanup efforts in north and east Nashville.

Organizers and volunteers are getting a better grip on where to deploy people to clean up the massive amount of debris and damage.

Nashville resident James Duncan said sirens started in the middle of the night before “howling” winds moved in.

"Things started hitting the window, and my girlfriend and I shot out of bed and darted for the bathroom. We could hear objects slamming against the building ... it was terrifying," Duncan told ABC News. "They say tornadoes sound like a train ... they were not lying. The feeling in my head from the pressure was insane. I've never felt anything like it. We were shaking."

“Then the power cut out and the noise started to fade,” he continued, but he smelled a gas leak and first responders quickly evacuated the apartment to investigate the suspected leak.

“Downed power lines were everywhere,” Duncan added. “We had to walk roughly a mile through the debris and wreckage 'til we could get to a zone where a friend could pick us up. I was trying to reach out to friends in the area to see if they were OK. It was chaos. It felt like we were in a bad dream.”