Trump surveys tornado damage in Tennessee

Associated Press • Mar 7, 2020 at 3:32 AM

COOKEVILLE — President Donald Trump on Friday toured a neighborhood reduced to rubble by a tornado earlier this week and marveled at “the tremendous heart” he witnessed. He also offered a message for survivors and those who lost family members: “We love them, they’re special people,” he said.

Trump assumed the role of national consoler as he traveled to Tennessee. Trump surveyed devastated communities in Putnam County, where strongest tornado overnight into Tuesday packed winds up to 175 mph and was on the ground for 8 miles, reaching EF-4 strength.

The tornado tore a 2-mile-long path, killing 18 people, including five children under 13. Many more people were injured, some critically.

The National Weather Service in Nashville confirmed Friday that at least six tornadoes hit Middle Tennessee during the series of storms. Statewide, the death toll stood at 24.

Upon his arrival in Putnam County, Trump was met by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn and other top officials.

“It’s been a painful, tragic week for our state,” Lee said after surveying with Trump a street where eight people were killed.

The street was filled with debris where houses once stood. Limbs were crudely snapped from trees. A white laundry basket, chairs from a dining table, cinder blocks and a step ladder dotted the landscape.

Trump then met with survivors and volunteers at a local church filled with boxes of emergency supplies, pallets of water and tables filled with clothes.

“When you have those who lost somebody, that’s a very tough situation,” Trump said during the nearly 40-minute stop. “We are with you all the way.”

He posed for pictures and shook hands with people before speaking to emergency personnel.

“Nobody’s seen what you had to go through,” Trump said.

Before the twister touched down in Putnam County, a tornado reached EF-3 strength, hitting peak winds of 165 mph, and carved a 60-mile path across Nashville and Wilson counties.

Weaker EF-0 tornadoes touched down in Smith and Putnam counties; another hit Putnam County; and Cumberland County saw one as well. Humphreys County experienced an EF-1 twister.

Tornadoes also were confirmed in other parts of the state.

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