At least five people were killed in central Tennessee early Tuesday, including two in Nashville, when powerful tornadoes ripped through the state, officials said.
The Metro Nashville Police Department wrote on Twitter that the two victims in the city were from East Nashville. At least three more people died in Putnam County, 90 miles east of Nashville, according to the sheriff’s office there.
The Nashville Fire Department said on Twitter that it was responding to reports of at least 40 collapsed structures around the city. The police in Mount Juliet, an eastern suburb of Nashville, said on Twitter that several people in the city had been injured and several homes destroyed, and it urged residents to stay home.
The John C. Tune Airport, six miles west of downtown, said on its website that it had sustained significant damage, with several hangars destroyed and power lines down. No damage was reported at Nashville International Airport on the other side of the city.
More than 44,000 people in the Nashville area were without power as of Tuesday morning, according to the city’s public utility company, Nashville Electric. Four substations and multiple distribution lines and power poles had been damaged in the storm, it said, adding that residents should “assume all downed power lines are live wires and stay away.”
Tennessee is one of the 14 states holding primaries on Tuesday — perhaps the single most important day on the primary calendar — and polls were scheduled to open at 7 a.m. Tennessee’s election administrator, Jeff Roberts, said in a statement that information about damage to polling stations was being collected, The Associated Press reported.
Photographs and videos shared on social media showed lightning strikes, collapsed buildings, damaged roads, and mangled wires and power lines lying in streets. The Basement East, a popular music venue, was severely damaged, and the roof appeared to have blown off.
“All staff working tonight are okay!” the venue said on its Twitter account. “Building sustained significant damage.”
“Downtown is devastated,” Chris Conte, a local reporter, said.
Nashville officials said that schools would be closed on Tuesday.
The National Weather Service had urged people in several areas of Tennessee to take cover on Monday as it issued alerts for severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes.
The service withdrew the tornado warning around 3 a.m., but added that more thunderstorms were expected, with heavy rains and winds up to 50 miles per hour.
“Storms could quickly become severe, so stay alert!” it said on Twitter.