Gov. Lee: ‘The devastation is heartbreaking, incredible’ after surveying deadly tornado damage

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Governor Bill Lee spoke at a press conference with state and city officials Tuesday afternoon following the deadly tornadoes that struck Middle Tennessee.

“It’s a tragic day in our state, a sad day. There are 25 confirmed fatalities across our state,” Lee said in his opening remarks at the press conference. “I spent the day touring and visiting victims and walking through neighborhoods and the devastation is heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking, it’s incredible. Our prayers are greatly needed for families out there who are dealing with a sudden, tragic event that has occurred in our state.”

(Photo: State Rep. Ryan Williams)

RELATED: At least 25 killed after tornadoes strike Middle Tennessee

Lee also said he was proud of the response made from officials, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), county officials and law enforcement.

“From the federal government all the way to the neighborhoods, we’ve seen a very coordinated effort,” Lee said. “President Trump called me personally today, the head of FEMA called me personally, I’ve had multiple governors from across the country reach out.”

Multiple agencies are coordinating to assess the damage and offer services and resources to victims.

“It’s a remarkable situation that we have – both tragic and hopeful at the same time,” Lee said. “The good news is, the response has been great. There are counties from across the state that are sending resources – generators coming, pallets of water coming, highway patrolmen being dispatched to places where they’re needed, shelters being put up all across the state to make sure people have a place to stay tonight who’ve lost their homes. There’s a tremendous coordinated effort and we’re very encouraged by that.

“As tragic and as difficult as this day is, Tennesseans are doing what Tennesseans do, and they’re coming together to redeem a really difficult place that we find all of ourselves in,” Lee said.

View the full press conference here:

Lee, confirming with state and Nashville officials that at least 25 people were killed after the tornadoes passed through Middle Tennessee in the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 3.

RELATED: President Trump to visit Nashville Friday following deadly tornadoes

There were other numbers shared by Nashville Mayor John Cooper: More than 5,000 volunteers had signed up to help rebuild, along with more than 27 companies had contacted Hands On Nashville to help; more than $350,000 had been donated to help.

“What a testament to our city and our solidarity,” Cooper said.

These numbers, shared at the press conference around 5:30 p.m. ET Tuesday, with Cooper saying more volunteers were continuing to sign up online.

An executive order declaring a state of emergency was signed to facilitate efforts, Cooper said, which will help agencies in the cleanup efforts and streamline the ability to acquire supplies and services.

“We are resilient and we’re going to rebuild,” Cooper declared.

TEMA director Patrick Sheehan also spoke at the press conference alongside Lee and Cooper, confirming that the agency had opened the state of emergency operations center late Monday night, when the storms first started moving through the region. The agency had been working since the middle of the night with the American Red Cross and the Department of Health to provide resources to the communities devastated by the tornadoes.

“We’ll be examining other needs as we move forward,” Sheehan said.

MORE: How to help families impacted by Middle Tennessee tornadoes

Lee broke down the number of fatalities confirmed as of Tuesday evening:

Putnam County: 19
Wilson County: 3
Davidson County: 2
Benton County: 1

There was also an unknown number of people still missing out of Putnam County, Lee said, with Search & Rescue efforts continuing along with assistance from the Tennessee National Guard.

This is a developing story. Check back with WATE 6 On Your Side or WKRN News 2 for more additional updates.


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