Rescue crews in Putnam County returned to a 20-acre field Wednesday morning that was too dangerous to search in the dark. It’s marshy and overgrown but sits between two of the hardest-hit neighborhoods with the heaviest death tolls.
The site is between the Echo Valley Estates and North McBroom Chapel Rd.
“It’s sort of in the path of the way the tornado went,” Putnam County Sheriff Eddie Farris said in a news conference late Tuesday. “We have a lot of debris that way. We feel like if there are more victims, that’s a very high probability place for us to find them.”
First responders were still locating survivors trapped in piles of debris as late as Tuesday afternoon. More than a dozen law enforcement agencies from neighboring jurisdictions have been assisting.
Farris said he hopes to have every collapsed home in Putnam County cleared by Wednesday evening. He wants the fields and woods to be finished by Thursday night.
A total of 22 residents are still unaccounted for as of Wednesday morning, though the list is down from 77 on Tuesday evening.
The medical examiner is still identifying some of the 18 fatalities in the county. The deaths include several children, according to county officials. Family members are asked to go to The Church on the Hill, which is near the county’s morgue.
A total of 88 injuries were treated at Cookeville Regional Medical Center, with some patients with severe trauma being transferred to Nashville hospitals.
“This is the saddest and most tragic day in Cookeville-Putnam County history,” Mayor Ricky Shelton said. “The death, destruction and devastation is literally unbelievable.”