Severe tornadoes sliced through portions of Tennessee early Tuesday morning, killing at least seven people and causing widespread damage, including to downtown Nashville. “TAKE COVER NOW!” the National Weather Service tweeted Tuesday morning. “THIS IS AN EXTREMELY DANGEROUS STORM!!!!” In some areas, baseball-size hail accompanied winds that carried debris to nearly 20,000 feet in the air. Emergency responders were assisting in the recovery in the early morning hours as police urged people to stay home and avoid downed power lines. As of 4 a.m. the power company said 44,000 customers were without electricity.
“Nashville is hurting, and our community has been devastated,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper tweeted in the aftermath. “Be sure to lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need, and let’s come together as a community once more.” Complicating the emergency response is that the state of Tennessee is going to the polls Tuesday as part of Super Tuesday. Some communal areas that might ordinarily be used to stage disaster response are already allocated as polling stations.
“Officials announced polls would open an hour late, at 8 a.m. in Davidson County (which includes Nashville) and Wilson County, even as emergency officials were still unclear on the full extent of damage to roads and electrical lines,” the Washington Post reports. “Polls will still close at 7 p.m. as previously scheduled, though Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said he was ‘working with election officials around the state to ensure polls in affected counties are open for the required 10 hours today.’ ”