Columbia tornado: One death confirmed in tornado near Bear Creek Pike, shelter to open (2024)

A tornado touched down in Maury County in eastern Columbia off Bear Creek Pike, resulting in one death, according to Maury County Regional Hospital.

Four others were injured after a confirmed tornado by the National Weather Service ripped through eastern Columbia as heavy storms brought hail, rain, high winds and flying debris to other parts of Maury County and Middle Tennessee Wednesday.

A shelter station will be set up for displaced Columbia families at Riverside Elementary School, 203 Carter St., Maury County Emergency Management officials said at a 9 p.m. media briefing after announcing Maury County Public Schools will be closed Thursday.

At the briefing, Maury County Director of Emergency Management Jeff Hardy said buses will be available to transport affected families and a command post will be set up at Maury County Fire Station No. 10, 1520 Lasea Rd., for anyone seeking assistance.

Trees down and debris are scattered along Bear Creek Pike, which led authorities to close the dangerous roadway from Tom J. Hitch Parkway to I-65, Maury County Office of Emergency Management confirmed.

Columbia tornado: One death confirmed in tornado near Bear Creek Pike, shelter to open (2)

Columbia Power and Water Services also confirmed the storms knocked out a portion of the city's power grid, which interim Columbia Fire Chief Chris Cummins said at the briefing would likely take "a few days" to completely restore.

Columbia Power & Water Systems reported Wednesday 1,200 people were without power, while Duck River Electric (serving multiple counties that include Coffee, Franklin, Bedford, Moore, Marshall, Giles, Maury) reported 14,600 customers without power.

In the meantime, Cummins asks that residents avoid the affected areas, as well as travelers from out of town coming into the city, while cleanup crews work to assess the damage.

"We do have extensive damage to the power grid, which is another reason we need people to stay out of the affected area," Cummins said.

First responders watched tornado touch down

Cummins added that he and his crews were watching live as the tornado formed and touched down.

"We have a camera on top [of the station] that streams to Tennessee Valley Weather, and we were actually here watching that wall cloud come down," Cummins said.

More:Nashville, Middle Tennessee power outages: See which communities are without power

The Office of Emergency Management confirmed soon after the storms Wednesday that a tornado touched down on Bear Creek Pike in eastern Columbia and swept through Joe Brown Road.

"We are currently assessing the damage caused by recent storms in our area. Emergency crews are on the ground, but we urge everyone to stay out of the areas hit and remain weather aware," Hardy said in a previous media release Wednesday at 7:50 p.m.

"More storms are expected, so it's imperative to watch the weather closely. As assessment and clean-up begins, roads will be closed from Tom J Hitch to the Interstate 65. Additionally, Maury County schools will be closed tomorrow for the safety of students and staff."

Hardy said the office is assessing many reports of damage.

"Cranford Hollow Road off Bear Creek Pike experienced damage to some structures as well as trees and power lines. Possible cars are flipped over and initial reports of some people trapped in their homes," Maury County Commission Board Chairman Eric Previti said after the storm on Wednesday.

Columbia tornado: One death confirmed in tornado near Bear Creek Pike, shelter to open (3)

City Manager Tony Massey said the city of Columbia is pooling all of its resources during this time of need.

"We have all of Columbia police out there at this time, as well as our fire department and all personnel to clear the roadways," Massey said. "There has been an extraordinary amount of cooperation from the multi-jurisdictions working together here tonight."

Massey said that, while the damage was swift and will take a lot of work to clear up, other major parts of the city were fortunately spared.

"As bad as this is, it almost touched down in downtown Columbia," Massey said. "When it all started, we were all like, 'This isn't a matter of if, but when.'"

NWS warns of tornado

The National Weather Service Nashville initially issued a tornado warning in parts of Columbia, Mt. Pleasant and Hampshire at about 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, anticipating it would pass by 5:45 p.m.

The weather soon continued, extending the tornado warning to 6:15 p.m., at which time the NWS reported a tornado had in fact touched down in Columbia, urging citizens in the area to seek shelter immediately.

Local first responders soon received many calls, with Columbia Police confirming that fallen trees and power lines were reported on major roadways like Bear Creek Pike and Old Highway 99, some completely blocking the roadway.

Rolling tornado damage reports

Kerri Bartlett contributed to this story.

Columbia tornado: One death confirmed in tornado near Bear Creek Pike, shelter to open (2024)


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