Tuesday marks 15 years since downtown Nashville tornado - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Tuesday marks 15 years since downtown Nashville tornado

NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Tuesday marks 15 years since a tornado hit downtown Nashville in a storm system that left more than $100 million in damage across Middle Tennessee.

Ten tornadoes, including one in Lawrence County estimated to be the strongest in state history, swept across the region on April 16, 1998.

In Nashville, at least 30 downtown buildings and more than 300 homes were hit, and the recovery was the catalyst for the transformation of east Nashville into the popular hotspot it is today.

Lawyer Mike Jameson watched the tornado as it made its move along Charlotte Pike toward downtown Nashville.

"The tornado came through Nashville like a bread roller," Jameson said. "Even this building was swaying back and forth."

The storm warnings that day were too many to count, and Channel 4 Meteorologist Nancy Van Camp was on the air for 12 hours straight.

"We had just invested, at no small cost, in our first live radar and in the software that would go down to street level and say, 'This is on such-and-such street right now, and here's what time it's going to get to such-and-such community,'" she said. "I really felt that reduced the number of fatalities."

One person died in Nashville, but the toll could have been much worse, as at least 300 homes sustained damage.

While the severity of the storm was totally unexpected, it turned east Nashville into a giant, united neighborhood.

"The tornado, as ironic as it sounds, was a huge jolt of adrenaline, and there is no replacement for millions of dollars of insurance money pouring into a neighborhood," Jameson said.

But the most damaging tornado of all - the only EF-5 touchdown in Tennessee history - hit Lawrence County.

"We were saying, 'Wait, hold on, there is a bigger and badder tornado than the one that went through Nashville,'" Van Camp said. "It was a monster, because it debarked trees and pulled up clumps of grass."

The Lawrence County tornado even picked up a one-ton Dodge flatbed pickup truck and carried it airborne for 20 miles.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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