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6 fatalities in Tennessee's deadliest December tornado outbreak

An aerial view of a damage in Clarksville by the tornado outbreak on Dec. 9, 2023.


TT&C Assistant Editor

Six people are dead following tornado outbreaks in Middle and West Tennessee, which may be the deadliest December outbreak in state history.  

Gov Bill Lee tours Clarksville tornado damage
Gov. Bill Lee surveys damage to a Clarksville neighborhood. 

According to the National Weather Service, several storm systems moved through the state, including an EF-3 tornado in the Clarksville area that touched down on Fort Campbell and was on the ground for approximately 42 miles. An EF-2 storm system also struck Madison, Gallatin, and Hendersonville. A third tornado is believed to have begun in White Bluff in Dickson County and tracked through Cheatham County and then into western Nashville.  

NWS also received reports of tornado-related damage in the municipalities Charlotte, Collinwood, Loretto, Slayden, and White Bluff. Hail was reported in Manchester and Tullahoma 

The Tennessee Office of Emergency Management (TEMA) reported 13 tornado reports across Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Gibson, Montgomery, Robertson, Stewart, Sumner, Trousdale, Weakley, and Wilson counties. More than 50,000 people across Middle Tennessee were without power following the peak of the storm.  

Three deaths were reported in the Madison neighborhood of Nashville – two adults and a child – while two adults and a toddler were killed in Clarksville. Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts said a total of 62 residents were hospitalized following the outbreak while 13 were hospitalized in Nashville following the collapse of a church roof. Two people were also injured in Hendersonville after the roof of an arcade collapsed.  

States of emergency were declared by Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts, Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell, Gallatin Mayor Paige Brown, and Hendersonville Mayor Jamie Clary. The state of Tennessee has also declared a state of emergency. 

Gov. Bill Lee and First Lady Maria Lee surveyed damage in Clarksville and the Madison neighborhood of Nashville. Lee noted the Volunteer spirit was alive and well in Tennessee. 

Tornado damage in Nashville
Tornado damage in the Madison neighborhood of Nashville. 

“[It's] Really heartbreaking, but really encouraging," Lee said. "Everywhere we went we saw volunteers— people from churches and nonprofits. We saw Tennesseeans coming into neighborhoods that they didn't live in and coming alongside. We do have services all across the state that are there to help, to provide what's needed, but I encourage Tennesseeans to pray for their neighbors tonight. There are a lot of them that are hurting. While they may get assistance, there's a whole lot more pain that's associated with what's happened to them than just the financial systems that will be coming there way. I would say to the victims— there is hope. While we cannot erase the pain and the heartbreak, we can come alongside you, and that's what we implore Tennesseeans to do." 

Schools were closed in Sumner and Montgomery counties following the outbreak due to power outages and other concerns.  

Hendersonville closed its city hall due to damage with employees working remotely where possible. Minor damage was reported to a wastewater treatment plant in Nashville with 11 pumping stations being run by onsite generators due to power outages, according to a statement from Mayor Freddie O’Connell’s office. A substation was damaged in Springfield after taking a direct hit from the storm.  

Clarksville has reported in an initial survey that 91 structures were totally destroyed, 271 were majorly damaged, and more than 400 had some damage. In the White Bluff vicinity, at least 9 structures were reported destroyed and 59 were damaged in some way. In West Tennessee, residents were trapped in damaged homes in Weakley County with significant damage reported in Gibson County. The fire station for the town of Rutherford was destroyed. 

Damage assessments are still ongoing in other communities. Despite the damage, a statement issued by TEMA said Tennessee was showing its true spirit.  

“Our hearts and minds are with all Tennesseans and their families that have been impacted by the tornadoes and severe weather that swept through our state,” the statement read. “As we begin the initial assessments, the Volunteer spirit has been on full display as many people have reached out about what they can do to help the communities that have been affected. Until we have a better idea of what kinds of supplies, assistance, donations, etc. that these communities need, we ask that you please refrain from sending anything that has not been requested by the state or local authorities.”