Tennessee officials search for missing people after tornadoes kill dozens

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Rescue teams, police and volunteers continued to search for at least 22 missing people in Tennessee on Wednesday, a day after a series of tornadoes tore across the state, killing two dozen people.

In Putnam County, east of Nashville, the death toll was 18, Randy Porter, the county’s mayor, said at a news conference Wednesday morning. The dead included 13 adults and five children under the age of 13, and officials had identified all of the victims except one, the mayor said.

He added that 22 people were missing, down from more than 80 who were unaccounted for Tuesday night. Rescue workers had fielded calls late into the night as people reported that their friends and relatives were safe, he said, but officials were struggling to find those who were still missing.

“We’re hoping that most of those are people that are safe and just haven’t let us know that they are,” Porter said.

“The area is still very devastated,” he said, adding that as many as 100 houses and structures were destroyed — some simply gone — and that hundreds more were damaged.

Sheriff Eddie Farris of Putnam County said that police were continuing to go door to door in search of survivors and victims, and had to go through about 40% of the rubble and demolished structures.

Officials at the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said the statewide death toll decreased by one on Tuesday night after one person was determined to have died of a medical issue unrelated to the storms.

The deadly storms and tornadoes cut a destructive path across central Tennessee Tuesday morning, shortly after midnight.

There were devastating losses in several communities in Putnam County, including Double Springs, Baxter and Echo Valley. In some neighborhoods, residents searched for houses along streets they could no longer recognize. Huge trees and live power lines were strewn across roads, and the winds lifted up trailers and ripped holes in houses and apartment buildings.

Buildings were also destroyed in the Nashville area, including in North Nashville; East Nashville, an area that was transformed after deadly tornadoes two decades ago; and Germantown, a neighborhood of quaint cottages. Two people died in East Nashville after being struck by debris. Other fatalities were reported in Wilson and Benton counties.

On Tuesday, authorities reported that at least 48 structures in Nashville had either partially or completely collapsed. “It is a massive act of nature,” John Cooper, Nashville’s mayor, said at a news conference.