The storm entered Tennessee in the night. Its intensity was unexpected, and it cut across the landscape at 60 mph — fast for a supercell.
By the time the storm dissipated on March 3, 2020, 10 distinct tornadoes had touched down, causing chaos over more than 100 miles of Middle Tennessee.
The winds peeled open warehouse roofs, lopped off church steeples, blasted through cinderblock walls and snapped thousands of trees and power poles.
The tornadoes killed 25 people, destroyed more than 1,600 buildings — including more than 400 homes — and damaged some 2,700 others.
— Tony Gonzalez
The Disaster Year
Cookeville Residents Are Still Learning From Loss
Pastor Rodney Pitts feels a duty to help others navigate through their grief — while also tending to his own.
— Story by Tasha Lemley
A Reporter Reflects On A Year Marked By Suffering
“It’s nearly a year later and we’re still not home, so everything reminds me of the storm…”
— Essay by Meribah Knight
The recovery would not be easy. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic complicated the efforts. And one year later, the recovery still feels piecemeal in many storm-damaged neighborhoods.
Some families and businesses have returned to their repaired and rebuilt places. Others are untouched — from homes left open to the elements, to a church where rooftop bricks still teeter, to a pair of Mt. Juliet schools that are just now beginning to look for a contractor.
To take stock of the recovery, WPLN News revisited survivors across the region. Our journalists found stories of sorrow, determination and hope.
Rebuilding In North Nashville
After a tornado ripped through this historically Black neighborhood, concerns rose about developers using the moment to further gentrify the area and displace longtime residents.
— Story by Damon Mitchell
One Hermitage Community Pooled Together For A Successful Rebuild
The tornado struck several large condos and apartment buildings, leaving renters displaced, but these tenants found themselves well supported during the rebuild.
— Story by Damon Mitchell
In Cookeville, Some Saw A Blank Canvas And Others Walked Away
Many have decided to drive their stakes even deeper into the ground.
— Story by Blake Farmer
A Once-Bustling Corner In Germantown Is Still Quiet
Extensive damage, drawn-out insurance battles and a global pandemic have slowed renovations to a crawl.
— Story by Samantha Max
Cookeville’s Tornado Recovery In Photos
Some homes that were flattened by the Super Tuesday tornadoes in Putnam County have been rebuilt. But most are still in progress — either just getting going or stalled at the starting line.
— Story and photos by Blake Farmer and Tasha Lemley
Recovery Will Take More Time, But Help Remains Available
As relief groups take stock of what they’ve done, they’re also pointing to what remains unfinished, and highlighting resources they hope will sustain the “marathon” effort.
— Story Tony Gonzalez
WPLN’s storm anniversary coverage is informed by records from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Weather Service, and multiple departments and officials in Benton, Davidson, Wilson and Putnam counties, as well as the cities of Mt. Juliet and Cookeville. Aerial images are provided by Vanderbilt University researcher Daniel Perrucci.
The entire WPLN newsroom contributed to this coverage, which was overseen by Tony Gonzalez, with editing support from Emily Siner and Chas Sisk. Rachel Iacovone created the interactive map and Mack Linebaugh guided the digital presentation.