At least 7 dead as tornadoes shred 40 buildings in Nashville area

At least 7 people were killed early Tuesday as two tornadoes touched down in central Tennessee, shredding about 40 buildings across the Nashville area.

Authorities pleaded with people to stay indoors, at least until daybreak could reveal the dangers of a landscape littered with blown-down walls and roofs, snapped power lines and huge broken trees. Schools, courts and transit lines were closed, and four polling stations were moved only hours before Super Tuesday voting was set to begin.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Maggie Hannan confirmed the initial death toll of 7. The sheriffs of Putnam and Benton counties joined Nashville’s mayor in reporting fatalities.

The tornado near downtown reportedly stayed on the ground into Hermitage, about 10 miles east of the city. Other areas reporting extensive damage included Mt. Juliet, downtown Nashville and Germantown.

“Our community has been impacted significantly,” the Mt. Juliet Police Department tweeted early Tuesday. Multiple homes were damaged and multiple injuries were reported, the department said. ”We continue to search for injured. Stay home if you can.”

Police officers and fire crews were responding to about 40 building collapses around the city, Metro Nashville police said.

John C. Tune Airport, Nashville International’s sister airport in West Nashville, “sustained significant damage due to severe weather,” spokeswoman Kim Gerlock said in a statement early Tuesday morning. Several hangars have been destroyed and power lines are down, she said, adding that there are no reported injuries.

Jeff Roberts of the Elections Commission said in a statement early Tuesday that information about damage to polling stations is being collected as polls open for Super Tuesday. Any voter in Davidson County whose assigned precinct has been impacted may vote at the Election Commission Offices, the statement said. Polls open at various times, starting at 7 a.m. CST, depending on the county.