Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency just issued its formal count from a devastating tornado in Lincoln County: Two dead, six injured — a grim confirmation of an early tally issued Monday night.

Other reports said the dead are a man and a woman who were in a mobile home.

Fayetteville resident Dane Grissom, who lives near Price Lane, said he was on the porch, calling his wife, when he heard the siren. They decided to stay where they were, and he ran into a storm shelter near his house just in time to watch a neighbor's mobile home being ripped off its foundation.

"I had a coat wrapped around my head and was peeking out so I could see it," he said.

A map inside the Lincoln County emergency operations command post captured the damage -- a 17-mile radius with a section of Fayetteville at its center, Xs marking spots where the tornado skipped across the city, lifting up for brief minutes only to touch down and destroy some more.

In addition, nearby Maury and Moore counties have roads closed due to flooding. About 10,000 in the area are without electricity.

Several government agencies, including Homeland Security and the National Guard, will be on the ground in Lincoln today, aiding survivors and getting a better idea how much devastation there is.

As the sun rose, it revealed mobile homes ripped off their foundations and destroyed, debris lining roadways along Price Lane in south Lincoln County.

At least one neighborhood and an elementary school were destroyed.

Authorities from across the state are blocking roads around the most severe damage.

The tornado with winds hitting 190 mph slammed into Lincoln County on Monday night. Today, authorities are going to be sorting out how a series of National Weather Service watches and warnings may have informed residents on how to act.

The fatalities were reported to hospital officials around 11 p.m., said Mary Beth Seals, the director of marketing and community relations for the Lincoln Medical Center. The identities of those killed were not immediately available.

A handful of other, minor injuries from the tornado also have been reported, Seals said.

Crews are still going through some of the damaged homes in southeastern Lincoln County as of early this morning, Seals said.

A vicious line of storms Monday brought ominously dark skies, lightning and record rainfall for the day in Nashville — more than 2 inches in all — but the area was largely spared the worst.

But the storms brought damaging and deadly tornadoes throughout the region, killing at least two people in Limestone County, Ala., and another person in Lee County, Miss. That's a day after tornadoes killed 14 in Arkansas.

MORE: Twisters bring deaths, carnage to South

The tolls could rise as emergency workers struggled through the evening to get through to tornado damage in Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and in Lincoln County.

The Lincoln County tornado damaged South Lincoln Elementary School and reportedly destroyed a wide swath of homes. One trained weather spotter described destruction 2 miles west of Crystal Springs:

"All homes gone on Price Lane and Howell Hill Road."

The storms whipped up earlier than expected, with a possible tornado touchdown in White and Cumberland counties Monday morning, said Trevor Boucher, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Nashville. No damage was reported in those touchdowns.

But as the day grew darker with storm clouds, conditions worsened south of Nashville, particularly in Lincoln, Franklin and Moore counties.

The National Weather Service lifted an initial tornado warning shortly after 7 p.m. The Weather Service then warned at 8:24 p.m. of a tornado in Lincoln County. Within minutes, the warnings grew more dire with winds exceeding 190 mph.

"Catastrophic damage likely with storm in Lincoln County," the message read. "170 (knots) of rotation with debris extending above" 20,000 feet.

The warning seemingly came out of nowhere, said Chris Murdock, who lived 4 miles away from the damaged elementary school. While he and his family didn't see the tornado, the gusts and hail they saw as they went to a friend's basement were enough for him to know this wasn't an average spring storm.

"Just by the looks of it, you could tell something terrible was happening," he said.

It was unclear late Monday how many homes were damaged.

"We're still trying to evaluate the extent of the damage

," said Melissa Smiley, with the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office.

The weather service also struggled to assess the scope of the damage with the weather not letting up after the tornado. Even the spotter's report on Price Lane and Howell Hill Road was unconfirmed Monday night.

"We've been continually getting pounded one right after another," said Dave Nadler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Huntsville, Ala., which covers Lincoln County in Tennessee.

Lincoln County schools are closed today, due to "storm damage, road conditions and flooding concerns," according to their website. South Lincoln Elementary School suffered heavy damage. Power lines were down throughout the area.

While forecasters warned that Moore County was in the line of fire after Lincoln County, there were no reports of damage there Monday night as the storm weakened.

Rainfall amounts in Middle Tennessee ranged from an inch to nearly 5 inches, Boucher said. Waves of downpours were enough to send the Harpeth River over its banks in Cumberland County and to swell other creeks and streams.

Rescue crews in Lewis County had to pull a family from their home using a four-wheeler and a boat as the flood waters rose, said Fire Chief Steve Vineyard.

"It rained so hard, so quick that it had them cut off, and it was beginning to get in the house," Vineyard said. He added, "Everybody's fine."

Fortunately, Boucher said, forecasters are predicting only a "slight risk" for more severe weather today as temperatures warm into the 80s and rain moves in. He warned that the chance of severe weather rises south of Nashville, meaning hard-hit areas could see a repeat if conditions worsen.

But he said the rain should move out by Wednesday, bringing cooler temperatures, with highs in the 60s until the weekend, when highs should get back into the 70s.

"That will be a welcome change," he said.

Contributing: Sanford Myers, Adam Tamburin, Michael Cass, Kevin Walters, Tim Adkins and The Associated Press.

Read or Share this story: