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Dozens hurt in Nashville twister

dark skies over Nashville
Stormy skies over Nashville, Tennessee  

More than 100 buildings damaged in downtown area

April 16, 1998
Web posted at: 7:52 p.m. EDT (2352 GMT)

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (CNN) -- A tornado cut through downtown Nashville Thursday afternoon, damaging the State Capitol and more than 100 other buildings and collapsing at least one structure.

As many as 100 people may have been injured, but Don Aaron of the Nashville Police Department told CNN there have been no confirmed fatalities. Cecil Whaley with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said most of the injuries appeared to superficial, caused by flying debris.

A camera mounted in a high-rise building shows a power transformer blowout and flying debris during the storm
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At least one critical injury was reported. Assistant Fire Chief Steve Meador said a man was hit by a fallen tree at Centennial Park and was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. His condition was unknown.

Windows were blown out in dozens of downtown skyscrapers, and damage was reported at the Tennessee State Capitol. The Tennessee Oilers' football stadium, under construction, also sustained some damage, as did the Nashville Arena.

Roofs were ripped off of some buildings, and trees were knocked over. Centennial Park near Vanderbilt University was reportedly heavily damaged. WKRN-TV reported that an Episcopal church across the Tennessee River from downtown was heavily damaged.

Headquarters for Nashville's police and fire departments were damaged, Aaron said. The state headquarters of the American Red Cross also was damaged, said spokesman Matthew Bourlkas.

crushed car
Several cars were crushed when an abandoned building collapsed  

"The building was just shaking unbelievably hard," he said. The building sustained some structural damage, windows were blown out and cars in the parking lot damaged, he said.

The building that collapsed, near the corner of 1st Avenue and Broadway, had been abandoned. No injuries were reported at that location, but seven cars were crushed by debris.

Power outages were reported in the city, and traffic was disrupted on freeways in the metropolitan area. Winds flipped a tractor-trailer over onto a car, crushing it.

Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist declared Nashville a disaster area.

The first storms roared through shortly after 3:45 p.m., moving from west to east across Nashville in a storm cell with dark, fast-moving clouds.

Whaley said it appeared that a single tornado touched down east of downtown and then skipped across the city for three or four miles.

Tornado warnings were issued and people were urged to take cover in several counties in the area. Another funnel cloud was reported in the same area of Nashville just after 5 p.m. Emergency officials said the second tornado never touched down.

A tractor-trailer was blown onto a car by the storm  

Earlier Thursday morning, the storm system that affected Nashville spawned tornadoes as it swept across northeastern Arkansas and western Tennessee. Four people were killed, and at least 22 were injured.

In downtown Nashville, Russ Simons, manager of the Nashville Arena, witnessed the twister.

"I saw this black object with stuff swirling around in it. I looked out my windows, and I can't tell you what I said."

Pierre and Ursula Regazzoni, Swiss tourists who were visiting the city, said their car was crushed by falling bricks from a downtown building.

More than 100 guests and workers at the Crowne Plaza Hotel were huddled in the basement with flashlights when the storm struck, said Ty Ette, a temporary worker there. Windows were broken throughout the hotel, but no one was hurt, she said.

"We have refreshments, we have a phone and everyone is taking turns calling home," she said.


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