20th Anniversary of Nashville Tornado


It was twenty years ago, April 16, 1998, the infamous “Nashville Tornado” tore through Davidson County, killing one person, injuring dozens, and causing over 100 million dollars in damage.

It wasn’t the only tornado that day.  There were thirteen in all, during several waves of supercell thunderstorms, starting at 6:05 a.m. in Dickson County and not ending until late in the afternoon in Maury County.

The Nashville Tornado touched down around 3:30 p.m. just west of Charlotte Pike and I-440, traveling through the West Nashville area, damaging homes and businesses, and taking out numerous trees.

As it traveled down Charlotte Avenue and West End, power flashes from downed electrical lines transformers were being seen by our News 2 City Cam (see video) indicating that, even though there was not a well defined funnel, the tornado was indeed on the ground.  As it made its way towards downtown, debris was being seen lofted into the air by the City Cam.  

Unfortunately, one Vanderbilt student was killed by a falling tree in Centennial Park.

As it moved into downtown Nashville, hundreds of windows were blown out of high rise buildings as terrified workers scrambled for cover at their places of business.

An F-1 to F-2 tornado at the time, the tornado strengthened to F-3 strength with winds of 158 – 206 mph as it crossed the Cumberland River into East Nashville.

Employees at the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department videotaped the massive swirling wall of winds and more electrical power flashes as it passed over the Titans (Oilers) stadium, then under construction, knocking over and breaking several construction cranes.  

In East Nashville destruction was widespread, including historic st. Ann’s Episcopal Church and several others.

The tornado continued through the Donelson and Hermitage areas, damaging homes businesses along and near Lebanon Road.  

At the Hermitage home of Andrew Jackson, over a thousand trees were blown down, some of which were believed to have been planted by President Jackson himself.

The tornado continued through Mt. Juliet, finally ending just east of Highway 109 near Lebanon. 

It was actually followed by two more tornadoes that affected Davidson County.

However, about an hour later, south Middle Tennessee was hit by a monster.  It was Tennessee’s only F-5 tornado ever recorded, with winds of 261-318 mph.  It killed 3 people as it moved through Hardin and Wayne Counties, before leveling houses and injuring 21 people in Lawrence County.

That same storm then moved into Giles and Maury Counties, doing extensive damage in Culleoka before ending as an F-4 tornado .

It is certainly a day that many Middle Tennesseans will always remember, but we hope never repeats itself.

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