700 Tennessee license plates lost after March tornadoes


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The tornadoes that ravaged Middle Tennessee did more than take lives and destroy property.

The storms created a unique problem for law enforcement after hundreds of Tennessee license tags got sucked into the vortex.

The license plates hadn’t been assigned to any motorists and were waiting to be sent to county clerks around the state, as determined by The Department of Revenue.

According to state officials, the unusual loss of license plates happened on March 3, the day of the tornadoes.

One of the areas hit hard was around Cockrill Bend, where John C. Tune airport is located.

Buildings were destroyed and planes were flipped.

That’s also where the TRICOR facility is located and where hundreds of thousands of license plates are stored.

According to officials at the company, as many as 700 license plates were sucked into the vortex cloud and there whereabouts are still unknown.

That issue became known to Belle Meade P.D. when an LPR camera hit on a plate that caused some confusion.

Chief Tim Eads said, “We had a hit on a stolen plate. It turned out to be a bit of an anomaly.”

That erroneous hit took place July 3.

A car was traveling through an intersection when the LPR camera reads the Tennessee tag as stolen.

It turns out the tag was not stolen, but the camera misread the tag and alerted officers.

The Belle Meade dispatcher double checked the LPR hit and quickly determined the camera incorrectly misread the license tag thinking an ‘S’ on the plate was a ‘5’.

According to investigators, the plate with the ‘S’ was a registered plate.

The misread plate with the ‘5’ was notated as stolen or lost.

Chief Tim Eads said, “There’s a human component where the dispatcher double checks the tag before officers are authorized to stop the vehicle.”

Eads said the error was notated and the vehicle never pulled over.

But as part of the report investigation, the dispatcher researched the erroneous plate to find out why it showed as stolen.

The dispatcher made some calls and quickly determined that the plate the LPR thought was stolen, is one of many missing plates now listed as lost or stolen out of Metro.

While the plate comes back as missing or stolen, the plate comes back to no particular motorist who was ever assigned that plate.

Company officials told News 2, the plate is one of approximately 700 plates that are listed similarly, as lost or stolen in Davidson County.

Corporate officials with TRICOR told News 2, when the tornado came through, it sucked 700 of these yet assigned license plates into the sky. The 700 plates were part of a group that numbered in the hundreds of thousands in the warehouse that were not affected by the storms.

“These things are very light and certainly could be strewn all over middle Tennessee,” Eads said.

Officers said if you come across these plates you should call the authorities.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of Super Tuesday tornado rebuilding and recovery.

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