The Tennessee Tornado: What we’ve seen and what we’ve learned.
So, it’s around 2:45 Tuesday morning on March 3rd. We know a storm is coming in, but when we go to bed around 10pm the night before, the weather report says that it looks like the storms are going to miss us.
So, just to clarify, a tornado watch is when there is a possibility that storms could turn into tornado like weather. A tornado warning is when they’ve detected a cyclone in the area.
We are new to Tennessee, so these things are still a “scary” to us! However, in talking with locals, they say that tornado sirens go off regularly and, because tornados rarely touch down, locals will often ignore them and go back to bed. We don’t even have a tornado watch.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for the March 3rd Tornados. In fact, I’ve heard from friends that they didn’t hear sirens at all! This big devil seemingly came out of no where.
We live in Murfreesboro, which is about 30 miles south east of Nashville. When we turn in for bed the night before, it’s was partly cloudy with still skies. Again, we had no tornado warnings or watches.
At 2:45am, my husband and I suddenly wake up. The lighting storm outside is UNREAL! I’ve never seen a constant stream of flashes like that. The thunder is a constant rumble in the sky. Then it begins raining vigorously and hailing.
I hop out of bed and go downstairs to get a better look. Then, I grab my phone and google Murfreesboro weather. We are suddenly on tornado watch.
Out of curiosity, I open facebook and am hit like a ton of bricks with the news! A massive tornado has hit east Nashville and surrounding areas. Reporters are already out reporting the damage. Because of the darkness, they can only seeing small bits of what has happened.
It seems like this massive tornado came out of nowhere. Very few people, if any, were prepared. Many didn’t hear the sirens. Two were reported deceased.
I stay awake, watching the weather stream on facebook. A reporter is taking about the possible devastation when another reporter interrupts him with breaking news. Another tornado has hit Mt. Juliet and headed for surrounding cities. They begin urging everyone to take cover NOW!
Mt. Juliet is only about 25 minutes from where we are, so of course I stay awake and on the ready to get my family to our safe place.
Thankfully, the tornado’s stays about 20 minutes or 15-20 miles away (still too close for comfort.) However, so many are not nearly as lucky.
In the daylight we can finally see the devastation. It is catastrophic!
Later that day I find out that a friends daughter has been hit. She was home at the time with her Mother and they are alright, but the house and neighborhood are a complete loss.
We immediately offer any help we can for the cleanup.
On Thursday around 10am we grab our gloves, our truck and a case of water and head to their neighborhood to help with cleanup. On the way we see some of the devastation for the first time. Damage is on both sides of a very large free way. I didn’t know tornados could be that LARGE! Again, first timer here!
We meet some incredible people in the parking lot of a Walmart near their neighborhood… songwriters and music publishers, friends and friends of friends, who have offered their services to assist with cleanup.
My friends warns us that “the damage is overwhelming and it’s hard to know what to do, but just do what you can.”
We pile people into two trucks and drive toward the neighborhood.
He’s not kidding. To get into he neighborhood we first have to get clearance through security. Because of the dangers of downed power lines and minimal parking space, officers only allow those who live in the neighborhoods to get into them. Plus, looters are out and about and many just want to see the damage, which causes road congestion for those trying to cleanup.
To get into the neighborhood we have to drive up a big hill. We are all talking as we travel up the hill (the bunch we have is a fun bunch of music industry folks, so we enjoy each other’s company) when we reach the top of the hill and, for the first time, see the devastation. The truck goes silent. None of us can believe what we are seeing.
Someone in the back comments that it looks l like a “Hollywood movie lot.” I couldn’t agree more. Except it’s real and it’s horrible.
Some homes are missing one side. Some the roof and on one, only the foundation remains.
On the side of each home are spray painted numbers because homes are unrecognizable. My friend actually said that when he drove to their house in the middle of the night just after it hit, he couldn’t figure out which house was theirs. Then he heard them calling for him out of the window.
We park on what remains of the grass, grab our gloves and get to work. Some of us make boxes and fill them with anything worth saving. Some bubble wrap furniture and start stacking what we can into two pods for safe keeping. We find a swimsuit and some clothing that does not belong to them. Tornado’s have a way of spreading what they can with the surrounding neighborhoods. I think of it as the worst kind of sharing.
Across the street from their house is a home where only the foundation remains. On the foundation is spray painted DOAX2… “Dead On Arrival Times 2.” Two people passed away in that home. I later find out it’s an elderly couple. I wonder whether of not they knew it was coming.
It’s heartbreaking they lost their lives, but at least they get to take the bridge to heaven together.
In total so far, 25 people lost their lives, some children.
It’s so easy to dwell on how sad, horrible and heartbreaking this is. It truly is! However, the point of my post is to focus on the amazing people of Tennessee!
As we are cleaning up with all 20-25 volunteers at just the one house we work on, we are offered free food, drinks and snacks by multiple people who have coolers slung around their backs. They would circulate around the neighborhoods, offering sustenance for hours each day! What hero’s they are!
It’s always amazing and wonderful to me that, in the face of hardship, turmoil and pain, so many wonderful people rise up, ready and willing to do what they can to help!
Some offer physical help, not complaining once about the insulation they are breathing in or the back pain they may have the day after. What hero’s they are!
Others go buy bottled water, clothing, coloring books, shoes and other donations and drive around until they’ve emptied their cars of all the goods they hope to donate. What hero’s they are!
Some give donations, big and small and anything they can, to help with the rebuilding of the homes, cities and businesses. What hero’s they are!
Others pray for those affected and offer emotional and spiritual support however they can. What hero’s they are!
Some offer up their homes and work places as shelter for those who are now homeless! What hero’s they are!
Darkness is always sad, scary and hard to face, but an amazing light shines from those that reach out to help in any way they can. That light shines so bright that the darkness dissipates.
Is all the darkness gone? No! Homes and businesses are lost. Lives are lost! My heart breaks for those families who are facing this emptiness and we pray for them daily.
All I’m saying is that people are incredible. People are good!
Thank you people of Tennessee for teaching me what true love, friendship, kindness, compassion, caring, hard work, and faith is!
Today, hug your family and call your friends and loved ones. We never know what might happen tomorrow.
One way to help donate to the Tennessee tornado efforts is to visit
They have t-shirts and clothing to purchase that quickly goes to help those in affected by Tornado’s. 100% of proceeds go to the efforts.
It is my first time on your blog. I like the name ‘Lemonade brain’.
I am from Murrayfield, Pretoria East, South Africa.
My first priority for this weekend, is to do house cleaning… a lot of homework; I couldn’t manage to do any during this past week. Today I am not really in the mood to vacuum etc.. After reading what happened in Tennessee, I must be thankful to have a home to clean.
While reading, I was also especially wondering about the dogs and cats in the neighbourhood. I hope they are ok.
I wish I could be there, helping.
You are so sweet to reach out. And thank you… I like the name too! We are actually doing ok here in TN, and thankfully most pets were accounted for! There is a lot of cleanup, but we’ve had more than enough volunteer their time and donations to aid in it! Now we are all facing this coronavirus thing together!
I love that you are feeling grateful! We all need to practice more gratitude! It’s so easy to forget to be grateful for what we have! All of this has definitely been an eye opener! Hang in there!