Tennessee family recounts basement filling with smell of gas amid tornado

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A common story from people affected by the tornado is how quickly the natural disaster moved. People were sent fleeing for their safe spots, some with little notice.

Chrissy Kirkwood was one of those people that was sent huddling to her basement. She lives and works in East Nashville. Her family bolted from their beds to the basement.

“We got down there about five minutes before it hit, we heard noises upstairs and we didn’t know but we felt the energy of it,” Kirkwood said.

Even inside the basement, the Kirkwood family was still threatened by the storm. Along with the sounds of the storm, a smell began filling the basement where they hid from the devastation.

“When the tornado came through it ripped the gas line off the HVAC,” Kirkwood said.

The unit, meant to bring comfort to the residents, now pumped sulfuric fumes into their hideaway.

“We had to open the windows in the basement,” Kirkwood exclaimed.

Outside that window, the view outside was just as scary. In front of a now-damaged monastery, a tiny house was tossed across their backyard. The tornado’s path demolishing a large tree.

“It got completely ripped,” Kirkwood said, showing where the tornado’s devastation left debris in its wake.

Now, residents and volunteers are picking up the pieces, sifting debris from pieces of their lives that the storm left behind.

“There’s glass and nails and screws,” Kirkwood said.

Pieces of what was, and reminders of the devastation.

Even so, the residents are working to rebuild the community, one piece at a time.

“This sanctuary, this music monastery will be rebuilt,” Kirkwood says, “even better and stronger than before.”

It will take a lot of selfless service to put it all back together.

The twisters that struck the greater Nashville area in the hours after midnight Tuesday shredded more than 140 buildings and buried people in piles of rubble and wrecked basements. The storms moved so quickly that many people in their path could not flee to safer areas.

The governor declared an emergency and sent the National Guard to help with search-and-rescue efforts. An unspecified number of people were missing.

Early findings by National Weather Service survey teams indicated that the damage in Nashville and Wilson County to the east was inflicted by a tornado of at least EF-3 intensity, the agency said.

You can donate online to the victims by clicking here.

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