Early this morning, a powerful storm system swept through middle Tennessee, leaving severe damages and claiming at least 19 lives.
The system produced at least two tornados, leveling buildings near downtown Nashville and striking homes in Putnam county, which is located near Cookeville.
The tornado near downtown Nashville lit up the night sky with flashes of light as transformers blew and the storm reportedly stayed on the ground into Hermitage, located about 10 miles east of the city.
“They need your prayers in Nashville, Tennessee,” Fox News Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean said on “Fox & Friends.” “This was an overnight, rain-wrapped tornado while people were sleeping and now they are waking up to extreme destruction, devastation, and deaths in the Nashville area.”
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency confirmed at least nine dead from the tornadoes that struck early Tuesday.
The Metro Nashville Police Department said at least two people were killed in East Nashville, while the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department reported three people in the county have died after a tornado touched down between the city limits of Cookeville and Baxter. Officials in Benton County told FOX17 a sixth person was also killed in the storms there.
Metro Nashville police officers and fire crews were responding to about 40 building collapses around the city as neighborhoods were littered with blown-down walls and roofs, snapped power lines and huge broken trees.
“A tornado skipped across the county,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper told the Tennessean while visiting an emergency shelter early Tuesday. “You do have people at the hospital and frankly there have been fatalities.”
Residents captured shocking mages of lightning strikes that turned the sky into purple and pink colors as the tornado that struck Nashville started barreling through the city around 1 a.m.
According to Dean, forecasters believe the storm that tornado that struck Nashville was an EF-3 that went through a “heavily-populated area.” Tornadoes estimated to be an EF-3 are considered to be strong, with winds between 136 and 165 mph, and they create “severe” damage,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center
A video posted online from Sam Shamburger, the lead forecaster at the National Weather Service Nashville, showed what appeared to be a well-defined tornado moving quickly across east Nashville. Lightning repeatedly flashed while much of the city was in the dark.
The whir of the wind could be heard gusting after the tornado moved out of sight.
“It sounded like someone was just throwing bricks at the windows,” a man named Mark told FOX17 in one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods.
In addition to the damaged buildings, the Airport was hit hard, and residents are being warned to avoid it as the Airport Authority has activated its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate response.
Nashville Electric tweeted that four of its substations were damaged, and power outages were impacting more than 44,000 customers.
A resident in Cookeville explained that “brick houses” had been completely “flattened.” And weather outlets suggest that the storm system will continue to dump heavy rainfall over the area over the next few days.
A spokesperson from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency confirmed to Fox News that at least 19 people had been killed in the storms. In an earlier press briefing, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee told reporters the deaths were centered in four different counties and there are a “number of people that are missing” in addition to “many” that are injured and being transported to area hospitals.