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March 15, 2017 Tennessee tornado outbreak
Nashville aerial survey.png
Aerial view of the aftermath following the EF3 Nashville tornado.
Date of tornado outbreak: March 15, 2017
Duration1: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Maximum rated tornado2: EF3 tornado
Tornadoes caused: 12
Total Damages: >$850 million (2016 USD)
Total Fatalities: 17
Areas Affected: Western Tennessee and Central Tennessee

1Time from first tornado to last tornado
2Most severe tornado damage; see wikipedia:Enhanced Fujita Scale

The March 15, 2017 Tennessee tornado outbreak was a small outbreak of tornadoes that occurred in Central and northern Tennessee on March 15, 2017. The outbreak resulted in over 850 million in damages. On that day, 12 tornadoes swept through Middle Tennessee—two of them touching down in Nashville city limits, causing significant damage to the downtown and East Nashville areas. Nashville became the first major city in nearly 6 years to have an E/F2 or larger tornado make a direct hit in the downtown area. In addition to the tornadoes, the thunderstorms produced heavy rains which caused flash floods, large hail and high wind gusts throughout their tracks, adding more to the damages.

17 people were killed by tornadoes during the outbreak in total: five in La Vergne and twelve in Nashville.


Meteorological Synopsis

Nashville tornado

Picture of the EF3 tornado as it passed through downtown Nashville.

large mass of unstable cold air was in place for much of the Central United States following the dissipation of Winter Storm Wyatt on early March 15, which had also caused a small tornado outbreak in Wyoming the previous day. The remnant low of the system was over Kentucky, and a surge of warm moist air was pulled in from the Gulf of Mexico as a result of a tilt in the surrounding air that this low had created, allowing for a dry line to form over Tennessee. This increased the likelihood for another significant weather event later in the day.

Dew points reached the mid to upper 60s across the Tennessee Valley, and as the day progressed, CAPE values reached 1600 J/kg while dry air intrusion was also on the rise increasing the threat of severe weather across the area. Activity soon developed across the Mid-Mississippi Valley extended into Kentucky, but the instability was highest around mid-Tennessee, where the worst damage would occur. All tornadoes on this day struck Tennessee, with additional severe storms as far north as the Kentucky-Ohio border and several other storms in Alabama across Walker and Cullman Counties.

Confirmed tornadoes

Confirmed
Total
Confirmed
EF0
Confirmed
EF1
Confirmed
EF2
Confirmed
EF3
Confirmed
EF4
Confirmed
EF5
12 5 4 2 1 0 0


List of confirmed tornadoes - Wednesday, March 15, 2017
F# Location County Time

(UTC -6)

Path length Max width Summary
EF0 SW of Centerville Hickman 2210 2.7 mi

(4.35 km)

20 yd

(18.2 m)

No damage was reported.
EF0 SW of Centerville Hickman 2221 3.64 mi

(5.9 km)

22 yd

(20 m)

Power lines were downed.
EF0 NE of Centerville Hickman 2232 0.8 mi

(1.3 km)

30 yd

(27 m)

No damage was reported.
EF1 Spring Hill Maury, Williamson 2235 7.9 mi

(12.72 km)

300 yd

(270 m)

This tornado touched down just west of the GM Spring Hill Plant before passing through the extreme northwestern portion of Spring Hill, damaging many homes and several businesses, including a Walmart. Most structures suffered minor to moderate damage, though one well-built home was unroofed entirely.
EF1 SE of Wrigley Hickman 2236 8 mi

(12.87 km)

100 yd

(91 m)

Tornado snapped many trees along its path. Power lines were downed, and dozens of homes were damaged.
EF0 NW of Rudderville Williamson 2251 1 mi

(1.6 km)

75 yd

(69 m)

Damage was confined to uprooted trees.
EF1 Fairview area Williamson 2254 12 mi

(19.31 km)

250 yd

(230 m)

Tornado closely paralleled power lines for its life, downing all of them along more than half its track. Several injuries occurred when the tornado passed over the I-840 and tossed several cars, though there were no fatalities. Over a hundred homes were damaged along the path, resulting in several additional injuries.
EF1 Arlington Williamson 2259 8 mi

(12.8 km)

50 yd

(46 m)

Numerous trees were snapped or uprooted. Several homes sustained minor damage.
EF2 SW of La Vergne Rutherford 2321 12.19 mi

(19.62 km)

370 yd

(340 m)

5 deaths - Over two hundred structures were damaged, including a Target shopping center that sustained major damage. The tornado was notable in that it crossed over the runways of the Smyrna/Rutherford county airport, which forced several flights to divert their track because of the high winds. While doing so, it also damaged a flight control tower and the Tennessee National Guard building, tossing over a dozen military vehicles, and flipping one unmanned passenger plane. The tornado then moved through Stewart Creek, damaging a boat dock. While passing through the creek, it crossed over Weakly Lane, tossing several cars off of the road. One car landed in the waters of the creek, causing two fatalities. The tornado began to weaken as it crossed through Ashwood, causing mostly EF0-EF1 damage before dissipating after crossing Couchville Pike.
EF2 Bellevue Davidson 2325 PM 6.36 mi

(10.24 km)

100 yd

(91 m)

3 deaths - Weak tornado initially caused minor damage to several homes outside of Bellevue, before gradually strengthening while entering the Poplarwood subdivision. The tornado crossed over hundreds of homes as it tracked through multiple subdivisions, some of which were almost completely destroyed, indicating EF2 damage. A little over one hundred injuries occurred as a result of this tornado.
EF0 SE of Gladeville Wilson 2337 4.25 mi

(6.84 km)

50 yd

(46 m)

Barns were damaged, a carport at a residence was destroyed, power lines were downed, and trees were damaged or blown down.
EF3 Nashville to N of LaGuardo Davidson, Wilson 2342 28 mi

(45 km)

500 yd

(460 m)

8 deaths - See section below

Downtown Nashville

This tornado, rated EF3, touched down near the intersection of Davidson Road and Ebenway Drive and traveled directly through downtown Nashville. After crossing the Cumberland River, it passed through East Nashville, Donelson, and The Hermitage Farm before finally lifting north of LaGuardo in extreme southwestern Wilson County. The tornado blew many windows out of office buildings. Many large buildings, including skyscrapers, were damaged. 35 total buildings in downtown Nashville were deemed structurally unsound after the tornado. The tornado hit the Nissan Stadium and caused significant damage to the eastern quadrant of the structure, as well as dumping a large amount of water down on the arena after having just crossed the Cumberland river. Many signs were downed throughout downtown as well.

The tornado continued northeast and hit the residential section of East Nashville. Thousands of homes were damaged in East Nashville, many of which lost a good part of their roofs, with a few destroyed. Trees were uprooted and telephone poles were knocked down in this area. It then re-crossed the Cumberland River, where more trees were downed across Neeley's Bend and more homes and other buildings were damaged near Hermitage. Hundreds of trees trees were blown down at Andrew Jackson's home, The Hermitage.

The tornado moved into Wilson County, downing many trees, power lines, and signs. Hundreds of homes alongside the river suffered considerable in the area. After moving through this residential area, the tornado then continued across rural Wilson County and produced modest damage before it dissipated just northeast of the Cumberland River in extreme northern Wilson County.

This event was noted to be extremely similar to a tornado that took a similar path in 1998.

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