A state of emergency was declared in Tennessee as the worst tornado to strike the United States in seven years claimed several lives. The storms also caused massive amounts of property damage in the Nashville metro area and nearby counties. Residents are only getting started with the long process of cleanup and recovery. 

The National Weather Service is in the process of learning exactly how much damage occurred and how many tornadoes were involved. Many individual tornadoes were reported along an area that spans about 140 miles from Nashville, through Camden, and Putnam County late at night. Certain sections of Cookeville were photographed with extensive damage to buildings, structures, and vehicles. Even the polling stations for Super Tuesday voting were affected by power outages and property damage, but measures were taken to assist voters.  

Nashville Electric Service says that about 35,000 customers are still without power, and reaching them will be a problem due to debris and damaged buildings. It is possible that some customers will remain without power for days until the areas can be cleared. 

All Nashville public schools and daycare programs were temporarily closed under the state of emergency. Many of their normal operations will not be able to function until power is restored. The director of the school system said that it will probably be at least 2 days before the local children can attend their regular classes again. Some schools that were heavily damaged will take longer to repair. 

Approximately 20 deaths have already been attributed to the tornadoes. Most of those are in Putnam County, and there are also 38 people in the area who are missing. Hundreds of buildings were also destroyed throughout the state. The last time a comparable tornado struck anywhere in the United States was in May of 2013 when Moore, Oklahoma was hit by a severe weather system.

The tornado systems were so devastating because many areas were warned just minutes before the storm struck. The tornado warning for Davidson County gave residents in East Nashville only about five minutes to get ready before they started to feel the effects of the storm. Fortunately, there have been many stories of residents doing everything they can to help each other out. Governor Lee commended locals for their generosity and perseverance in the aftermath of the storms. He said that their actions were in accord with the spirit of the volunteer state. Some victims had to be pulled from debris after their roof collapsed. Other stories included people assisting with repairs in the immediate aftermath.  

Emergency powers and the executive branch

The President of the United States and the Governors of each state are given the power to declare a state of emergency as heads of the executive branch through the federal and state constitutions. This allows them to suspend normal government functions for a short period of time, which is usually done to address some kind of natural disaster. In the past, emergency powers have also been used during wartime.  

President Trump has already scheduled a visit to the affected areas for Friday of this week. He said that the federal government will assist in the recovery to the fullest extent possible.

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