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A resident climbs over debris after her friend's home was lifted off its foundation on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Clarksville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

'God Preserved Us': TN Twister Slams Church with Dozens Inside; 6 Killed Elsewhere

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Central Tennessee residents and emergency workers are dealing with the aftermath of the devastating weekend storms that killed six people, including a 10-year-old boy and a two-year-old toddler. 

The severe weekend storms and tornadoes sent dozens of people to hospitals after damaging buildings, ripping off roofs, turning over vehicles and knocking out power.  

Twenty-one total injuries were reported in Nashville, city officials said.   

In all, 11 Tennessee counties were affected by Saturday's tornadoes and severe weather. Weather service teams were out Monday assessing damage.

A tornado struck Montgomery County, north of Nashville, Saturday afternoon, destroying homes and knocking out power to tens of thousands. The weather service office in Nashville said the tornado was on the ground for more than an hour, traveling 43 miles across the county and in Todd and Logan counties in Kentucky. At its widest point, the tornado's path was 600 yards. 

County officials said three people were killed, including a 10-year-old boy. 

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slider img 2Joe Pitts, mayor of the Montgomery County city of Clarksville, said it could be a couple of weeks before power is restored to everyone. Residents of the city of about 166,000 spent Sunday helping one another dig out from the devastating storms, he said.

Pitts said on Sunday that 62 people had been hospitalized. 

"We know we have people who are suffering because of loss of life, loss of property," Pitts said. "One thing I love about this city is that when someone has a need, we rally around that need."

In a Facebook post, the Clarksville Police Department said the Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency reported the city has 65 structures with minor damage, 339 with moderate damage, and 271 with major damage making them uninhabitable.  

There are 91 structures destroyed based on the latest assessment from EMA. The vast majority of these structures are residential dwellings, the police department said. 

One of those buildings was Clarksville's Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church whose roof was ripped off by the tornadic storms and wrapped around a nearby telephone poll, according to WTVF-TV

"That's our roof right there," Wanda Allen, Pastor David's wife and a Clarksville City Council member said. "When I see that, I say thank you, Lord."

The outlet reported the church's sanctuary is a mess. Where the building's roof once covered the auditorium, now large pieces of drywall and insulation cover the pews, along with water-drenched carpet.

"It's just -- all I can stay is wow," Pastor Allen told WTVF. "Hadn't figured out where the steeple is."

"Our church is really not destroyed, that is the building. We are the church. We are the people," said Allen. "We are a strong community and we will bounce back. We will bounce back."

A Clarksville man was putting his son in his car seat when he saw the tornado coming and dashed back inside his home.

"I pulled my son out as fast as I could, we ran inside. My 2 sons. My wife and I, we jumped in the bathroom and started praying to Jesus," the man said. 

Another tornado that struck the Madison neighborhood just north of Nashville and also raked Hendersonville and Gallatin was an estimated EF2, with winds of 125 mph, the weather service said. Authorities said it tossed one mobile home onto another, killing three people inside the two homes, including a two-year-old boy who was killed along with his mother. 

Nashville Pastor Responds to Destroyed Building: 'God Preserved Us'

The twister slammed into the Community Baptist Church in Nashville with dozens of people inside. The church's sanctuary and activities building were demolished in the storm. Some members suffered broken bones and legs, but everyone survived.

"Though we have experienced devastation beyond measure, we did not lose life," the church's pastor, the Rev. Vincent Johnson said. "God took brick and wood and metal and it was mangled in a tornado ... yet God preserved us."

Meteorologist Scott Unger in Nashua told The Associated Press on Monday, "It's nothing out of the ordinary for us to have tornadoes this time of year. The environment was just right. We had the warm, moist air coming up from the Gulf. We had the cold air coming down from the north. The two things combine and create the right conditions for us to have tornadoes."

After touring the damage in Clarksville, Gallatin, Hendersonville, and Madison on Sunday, Gov. Bill Lee told reporters, "Really heartbreaking, but really encouraging," Lee said. "Everywhere we went we saw volunteers — people from churches and nonprofits. We saw Tennesseans coming into neighborhoods that they didn't live in and coming alongside."

CBN's Operation Blessing Responds to Help Victims

Over the weekend, CBN's Operation Blessing (OB) dispatched a truck full of relief supplies intended for the tornado victims in Clarksville and is looking to expand to other areas. 

In a post to the social media platform X, the nonprofit disaster relief organization told its social media followers: "Please keep these disaster victims in your prayers!"

Operation Blessing said it's looking for the best ways to help the victims and is evaluating multiple areas that may be supplied with further relief. 

For more than 40 years, CBN partners have shown love and compassion through OB as together we've provided hunger relief, clean water, medical care, and disaster relief to millions. For information about how you can help, Click Here

Learn How Operation Blessing Helps People in Need: 

Responding to Deadly Earthquake in Morocco

Relief from Hurricane Idalia 

Hawaii Wildfire Recovery

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of