Nashville Tornado: My Experience & How You Can Help [Updated]

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Mt Juliet Mural Lee Huffman February 2020
This post may contain affiliate links that pay us when you click on them.

I’m writing this article to plead for Nashville tornado donations to help my community recover. Even if you can only spare $1, every cent helps to rebuild what families and local businesses have lost.

The tornado that ripped through Nashville during the early hours of March 3rd has changed many lives forever. It struck while most people were fast asleep in their beds. Starting after midnight on the morning of Tuesday, March 3, 2020, communities east and west of Nashville were jostled awake by the piercing alarm of tornado sirens. Sometimes these tornado sirens are precautionary, but not this time.

I’m donating 100% of the affiliate income I generate in March 2020 from credit cards, Amazon, Dosh, and CLEAR to local Nashville charities. Even if you don’t normally click my links, please do so this month to support the Nashville tornado recovery.

Update on donations to Nashville Tornado Relief

Thank you to everyone who read my articles and used my affiliate links. In total, I earned $121.88 in March from my website. I’m rounding it up to $125 and paying for the processing fees to give a few extra dollars to those who are still hurting from the tornado.

My donation is being made through the Nashville Tornado Response Fund and ServisFirst Nashville is matching my $125 donation! Donations are still open, so please consider donating today.

And I really appreciate Boarding Area legend Randy Petersen for so graciously agreeing to match my donation!

Between my donation and the matching donations from ServisFirst and Randy, that’s almost $400 raised for Nashville Tornado relief thanks to you reading my articles and using my affiliate links. On behalf of my local community, thank you so much!

Nashville Tornado Response Fund donation May 2020
The receipt of my donation to the Nashville Tornado Response Fund

My first Nashville tornado experience

Coming from California, earthquakes are what we fear the most. We don’t have earthquakes in Nashville, but we do have tornadoes.

Previous tornado in Mt Juliet – 2013

The last time one struck our town of Mt Juliet was 2013, which was before we moved here. Local businesses close to where we live were heavily damaged, but luckily homes were spared and sustained minimal damage.

This time, our city wasn’t so lucky.

I’m going to share my thoughts and feelings during the Nashville tornado in the paragraphs below. If you don’t want to read, please skip ahead and see how you can donate in the next section.

Anna was out of town

I dropped Anna off at the airport for a work conference in Las Vegas on Monday afternoon. Our biggest concern was the possibility of coronavirus at the conference she was attending. I can only imagine how tough it was for her to be away from me and the kids during the tornado.

Working late

I had such a long day away from the computer with so many errands on Monday. Dropping Anna off at the airport, Timmy’s dentist appointment, and Scarlett’s soccer. I worked late to catch up on 8 hours of unproductive time.

I finished for the night around 12:30 am. By this time, the storm was already pretty severe. But we’ve had plenty of strong rain and windstorms, so I didn’t think much of it.

Tornado sirens

When I went downstairs to let our dog out before bed, I could hear the tornado sirens sounding the alarm. I diligently checked the weather apps and local news for updates on the storm. There were numerous warnings about being safe and finding shelter.

The CDC recommends going to a basement or downstairs room without windows (e.g. bathroom, closet, center hallway). Get under something sturdy for protection. Cover your body with a blanket, sleeping bag, or mattress. And always protect your head and neck.

Protecting the kids

The kids were sleeping in their room for about 3 hours by now. I didn’t want to wake them or alarm them if I didn’t have to. I scooped them up and brought them into our bedroom one at a time. If something was to happen to us, I wanted us all together.

As the tornado approached, I would have quickly rushed us into our master bathroom. Maybe it is ignorance or wishful thinking. Who knows if we would have had enough time by the time we realized the tornado was upon us.

The thoughts raced through my head all night whether or not I was doing the right thing by letting them sleep. They were blissfully unaware of the danger that was coming to our city. As a parent, I wanted to protect them from worry and fright if I could.

Staying awake

As they lay in our bed, fast asleep. Our dog and I paced the room worrying about the Nashville tornado. Every few minutes, I would poke my head out of the front and back doors of our home to check on the weather. The rain was pouring and the wind was strong, but luckily I never saw the tornado.

I was incredibly tired, but adrenaline wouldn’t let me sleep if I tried. By this time, I was texting with Anna and other friends who were still awake. All sharing the latest news to see where the tornado was at.

I finally got to bed around 2 am. It was a relief to be in bed and cuddle with the kids. I feel horrible for the families who won’t be able to hug their loved ones again.

The Nashville tornado

According to news reports, the Nashville tornado was on the ground for approximately 50-60 miles. One weatherperson said that most tornados hop around, but this one stayed on the ground the entire time.

The path that this tornado took slammed the 5 Points area of East Nashville. Two previous tornadoes also struck this part of town.

As the tornado continued its path of destruction, it came within a mile of where we live. I’m still trying to comprehend how fortunate our family is. Based on the damage to other homes and buildings, it is scary to think about what this tornado would have done to our neighborhood if we were in its direct path.

Here is raw footage of the tornado captured by a local. Reports say that the tornado ranged from an F2 to F4 in different parts of Nashville and surrounding areas. Winds reached up to 160 mph in some areas along the tornado’s path.

The devasting aftermath of the Nashville tornado

The damage along the tornado’s path was devastating. One of the local news channels created an interactive map so people can better understand the damage that was caused.

 

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We stayed home all day Tuesday to keep the roads clear for police and first responders. I spent most of the day glued to my phone, constantly searching for updates and hoping and praying that the damage was not too severe. Friends, family, and followers checked in on me through texts, phone calls, and social media messages. It was nice to have so many people offering words of kindness and hope.

Today, we took Scarlett to her Pre-K class to bring a little normalcy back into the kids’ lives. Our main road in town was clogged with cars as electricity workers focused on the downed electrical wires and fallen poles.

As we drove by the schools, we could see the devastation to the schools, businesses, and homes in the middle of our city. On social media, images from all over Nashville repeated the horrifying aftermath of one of the worst tornadoes to hit middle Tennessee.

Explaining it to the kids

I’m having a hard time finding the right words to explain what happened to my 5- and 9-year-old kids. It is important for them to understand what happened and why so much of our town looks like this. I don’t want to scare them or make them afraid that another tornado will come and do this to our family. A child’s creativity and imagination can dream up things adults cannot, so it is important to make them feel safe.

How do you explain to young children that at least 22 people died, many families’ homes are destroyed, schools won’t reopen until next year (at the earliest), and some business owners may lose everything? I’m trying to figure that out.

Nashville tornado damage Mt Juliet TN
Heavily damaged home in Mt Juliet by Nashville tornado

How you can help: Nashville tornado donations

There are many ways that you can help Nashville recover from the devastation of this horrible tornado. You can donate time, household goods, or money through charities and community organizations like these below.

Our local elementary and middle schools were badly damaged

The elementary and middle school in the middle of Mt Juliet were badly damaged. Classes are canceled for the rest of this week across the county and these schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.

You can donate to the rebuilding fund for Stoner Creek and West Wilson. Stoner Creek even has t-shirts that you can buy to raise money. All-Star Stitches is donating 100% of the proceeds to support the school. I bought some for our family too.

Visit Music City charity

The Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp established the Music City Inc charity. On this site, you can donate online, Venmo, PayPal, or by sending a check.

Visit Music City is the local visitor’s bureau and they’ve created a shirt to raise funds for local relief. The shirt says “Keep The Music Playing,” which is what our artists are doing. When you visit local bars, honky tonks, and restaurants, there are opportunities to donate money while enjoying a bit of our normal festivities. 100% of the proceeds from this t-shirt will fund local relief efforts and shipping is free for orders of 10 lbs or less!

 

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Donate time with Hands On Nashville

If you have the time and energy, donate your time and effort with Hands On Nashville. They’ll direct you to the areas that need your help and abilities the most. As of last night, there were more than 5,000 people who registered to help. Truly remarkable!

Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee donations

The Emergency Response Fund has already received over $350,000 in Nashville tornado donations to help with disaster relief. This is just a drop in the bucket for all that is needed to help our community recover.

Nashville Tornado Relief Fund 2020 by Shawn Johnson

Former Olympian and Nashville local Shawn Johnson started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the community. She and her husband put their money where their mouth is by generously committing to match the first $10,000 donated. Their match was quickly met, and they’ve now raised almost $90,000 towards disaster relief!

Donate when checking out at Kroger

Kroger grocery stores are accepting donations at checkout. These donations will go to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. You can also donate to the charity directly through its website.

Give blood through the American Red Cross

Donating blood is always a good thing. Whenever a natural disaster occurs, blood donations are needed even more to help those who were injured. Give blood at your local American Red Cross. This is especially important for people who have generic blood types like O+ and rare blood types like AB-.

Nashville Tornado Response Fund by Generous

Generous has created the Nashville Tornado Response Fund to collect donations for our community. The best thing about donating through the Generous platform is that they will match your first $25 donation. Plus, Generous is waiving the usual “platform fee” of 2.9% + $0.30 to help get more money to those impacted by the Nashville tornado.

Please consider donating at least $25 to max out the matching donation. I’m donating $25 in my name and Anna’s name to get an extra $50 donated by Generous to help our community rebuild.

Your donations will be split among four local nonprofits.

  • American National Red Cross
  • Second Harvest Food Bank
  • Hands On Nashville
  • Salvation Army USA

Donation of household items

Basic necessities are critical to provide some normalcy when your home is destroyed by a natural disaster like the Nashville tornado. Many local charities, churches, and community services need your donations. Here are just a few of the organizations that need your donations:

#NashvilleStrong t-shirts from Project615

Project615 is pledging a Nashville tornado donation of 100% of profits from this #NashvilleStrong t-shirt. Proceeds will benefit local charities that help families in need and businesses rebuild. I ordered t-shirts for everyone in our family. Adult t-shirts are $30 and kid sizes are $20 each. Project615 also offers free shipping on orders of $55 or more.

 

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#IBelieveInNashville t-shirts from NashvilleTNStore

The NashvilleTNStore is also donating 100% of profits from all merchandise for the entire month of March towards relief efforts. I’ve purchased t-shirts from this site before, and I love supporting local businesses. We ordered a few more shirts from here as well. As of this article, they’ve already raised a Nashville tornado donation of over $300,000 in less than 48 hours. Truly remarkable what people can do when they come together.

 

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Airbnb donated temporary housing to those affected

Some people love Airbnb and others don’t. I have yet to stay in one because I favor the consistency from hotel brands and free upgrades through loyalty programs. But, Airbnb really impressed me with their offer to provide free temporary housing to people from Nashville who were affected by the tornado.

Through the Airbnb OpenHomes initiative, families who were displaced and rescue workers were offered free accommodations from March 3, 2020, through March 24, 2020.

If you’d like to try your first Airbnb stay or experience, use my Airbnb referral code to get up to $55 off your first trip.

The Bald Thoughts

I love my town and all of our new friends. It pains me to see so much devastation and know that people are hurting right now. I had to share just a fraction of our experience with you. There’s still so much we don’t know and there is a long road ahead of us as we rebuild.

If you are able, please contribute what you can to help our community. We need all of the Nashville tornado donations that we can get to help families in need. For those who can’t, your kind words also mean a lot. Please also consider sharing these resources with your friends and family so they might contribute to the relief efforts.

Remember, I’m donating 100% of the affiliate income I generate in March 2020 to local Nashville charities. So, please use my links for credit cards, Amazon, Dosh, and CLEAR even if you don’t normally do so. With your help, we can generate a lot of Nashville tornado donations to help our community recover.

Thank you!

#IBelieveInNashville #NashvilleStrong #MJstrong #NashvilleTornado

Originally published on March 5, 2020. Updated on May 25, 2020.


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8 COMMENTS

  1. Sorry your community had to go through this. After Hurricane Michael, I’ve seen first hand that it affects kids in major ways. Thankfully our son was only just turning 2, so the extent of his knowledge was Nana’s house and all the trees had big boo-boos. We have friendss with older kids and they still ask about the Hurricane a year and a half later. They ask if another hurricane is going to come. I don’t know what to tell you, but I know it will likely impact them for years to come in some form or another if you see the damage on a regular basis. Even the adults still have PTSD like crazy, especially if they didn’t evacuate. They canceled school a day in advance for what was expected to be a severe thunderstorm, something that never would have happened before the hurricane. Good luck figuring it all out. I have no doubt you’ll do great with your family but know it doesn’t go away anytime soon.

    • Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your story, Lance. It will be tough, but we’ll get through it. I’m focused on helping those in our community who lost someone, are injured, and whose homes & businesses are damaged.

  2. CDC giving tornado advice is new, usually that is FEMA and/or Weather Service messaging. Regardless, very important knowledge for anyone living or visiting tornado at-risk places. In the many years I’ve worked for public sector emergency management agencies, getting people to understand what to do, and how little time you have to do it, was always a challenge, thank you for spreading the message, @Lee.

    One point not in your write up, sirens were intended to be OUTDOOR warning devices only, they were never designed to warn people indoors. Do not rely on hearing them inside your home or business!

    Continuing that thought, households and businesses should not rely solely on apps as the end-all-beat-all for getting severe weather notifications. Think old school, get a weather radio! Keep it where its alarm can alert you indoors when warnings (and watches, if you program it for those as well) are issued. Make sure it is programmed properly for location and channel, and (just like with smoke detectors) put fresh batteries in it every year. If not sure how to program it for your location, check with local emergency management agencies. They should be able help, or at least point you to a community resource that can program it; heck, I’ve seen local TV and radio stations around the country partner with retailers, hosting free walk-in weather radio programming days at multiple stores (yes, even if you didn’t buy the radio there).

    Best wishes for calmer weather and a safe recovery, Nashville.

  3. Sounds horrible, glad you guys are all ok, we don’t ever hear of things like this in England – must of been scary

  4. Thanks, Lee, for highlighting this. I live in South Nashville and go to church in Germantown, where the tornado started it’s Nashville proper destruction. I have a niece and nephew with kids at Donelson Christian Academy in Mt. Juliet, which was destroyed. And I was born and raised in Cookeville and still have immediate family there. 18 people lost their lives there within a mile of my brother to the south and my sister to the north of the path. You are so right about being fortunate. I hope people will click the links and contribute what they can. Proudly wearing my Nashville Strong shirt. Blessings on you and your family.

    • Thanks for writing and sharing, John. I’m glad you and your family are safe. It is such a shame that the schools were destroyed. As parents, we want our kids to get back to “normal” as quickly as possible and school is a big part of their lives right now. Thanks for wearing your Nashville Strong shirt! We need to support our community in every way we can.

    • Hi John,
      Minor point, but DCA is in the Hermitage/Donelson area which is just west of Mount Juliet. Perhaps you meant MJCA (Mount Juliet Christian Academy)? Both were heavily damaged by the tornado.

  5. Thanks, Lee, for this post and all that you’re doing to help MJ (and Nashville)! I was born in Nashville, but raised in MJ. Now I live just outside of Chicago, but my parents and younger siblings still live there (two of them were/are going to West Wilson Middle School). Tornadoes were a regular springtime occurrence, but this was by far the worst in my lifetime. So glad you and your family are safe!

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