An F-3 tornado roared through Nashville 20 years ago today - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

An F-3 tornado roared through Nashville 20 years ago today

Nashville tornado (Source: WSMV) Nashville tornado (Source: WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WMC) -

Twenty years ago today, an F3 tornado plowed through the city of Nashville producing plenty of damage and killing one person. I had just gotten to work at a bank in Belle Meade on the west side of Nashville. I watched the tornado forming aloft just to my north as the storm passed over. It dropped just a couple miles away on Charlotte Pike. I was currently in college at Trevecca Nazarene University, which sits on a hill off Murfreesboro Road with a perfect view of downtown Nashville only a mile or two away. My friends back on the hill at Trevecca had the perfect view of it going over downtown Nashville from the Jernigan Student Center. If we had only had cell phones back then:)

I'll never forget driving around all the debris that evening on my way back to the dorm at Trevecca. That tornado event was the turning point where my interest in weather finally overtook my fear of public speaking. My internship at News Channel 5 (the CBS affiliate in Nashville) would start a year later. It’s one of only a few major weather events I’ll never forget. Check out the others that I experienced first-hand below in no particular order.

1995 - An all-time record snow event in Louisville where the city got over 20 inches of snow in less than 24 hours then had an all-time record low of -22° F a few days later. I was out of school over a week.

2011 - April 27th tornado outbreak in north AL…part of the biggest tornado outbreak ever recorded. 9 people died just two miles from my house at the time. We went without power for 7-10 days.

2002 - Hurricane Lily with winds near 100 mph at the center. I stood in the eye with classmates and professors from Mississippi State University.

1989 – Hurricane Hugo made landfall near Charleston, SC with sustained winds over 155 mph. I lived in Greenville, SC at the time and had high wind as it came inland. My dad and I went down a few days after and saw all the destruction. I still have a box of shells that I picked up that were sucked up on the bottom of the ocean and piled onto the beach.

Here is more on the path the Nashville tornado that day…

The tornado touched down near the intersection of Charlotte Pike and Forty-Sixth Avenue and traveled directly through downtown Nashville. The tornado looked like a large area of rotating rain and dark clouds, rather than a traditional tightly-woven tornado. After crossing the Cumberland River, it passed through East Nashville, Donelson, and Hermitage before finally lifting northwest of Lebanon in extreme northern Wilson County. The one death occurred when an ROTC student from Vanderbilt University was trapped under a fallen tree in Centennial Park. He later died from his injuries. The tornado blew many windows out of high-rise office buildings. Many large buildings, including skyscrapers, were damaged. 35 total buildings in downtown Nashville were deemed structurally unsound after the tornado. The tornado blew down 3 construction cranes on the construction site of the Tennessee Oilers (now Titans)' football stadium near the Cumberland River, before actually crossing the river. Many signs were downed throughout downtown as well.

The tornado continued east and hit the residential section of East Nashville. At least 300 homes were damaged in East Nashville, many of which lost a good part of their roofs. A church, which was well over 100 years old, received major damage. It then re-crossed the Cumberland River, where more trees were downed and more homes and other buildings were damaged across Donelson and Hermitage. Over a thousand trees were blown down at Andrew Jackson's home, The Hermitage. Some of those trees were well over 200 years old, with a few having been planted by Andrew Jackson himself.

Spencer Denton
WMC Action News 5 Meteorologist
First Alert Storm Tracking Team
Facebook: 
Meteorologist Spencer Denton
Twitter: @spencerstorm5

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