Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for April 4, 2023
All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.
We start with local news…
Lewis County Tornado (CDH)
Several communities are still recovering from the effects of Friday night's storms, which brought damaging winds, tornadoes and extensive rainfall, leaving countless amounts of wreckage in its wake from West Tennessee to Middle Tennessee.
The National Weather Service reported that Lewis County received a large brunt of the damage, recording an EF2 tornado with a width of nearly half a mile and winds up to 130 mph.
No injuries or deaths were reported. Emergency warnings had allowed residents enough time to find safety, officials said.
Melissa Keller, Lewis County resident said she ran to her bathroom to hide as the gusts of wind grew into the sound of a train barreling down on the community where she's lived with her family for nearly 50 years. Although there's damage, her home is still standing.
Lewis County is in southcentral Middle Tennessee with its county seat in Hohenwald. Officials reported about 10 homes lost there early Saturday. Many more were damaged.
"It destroyed my sister’s house out on that peak," Keller said. "They just built it last year."
In McNairy County in West Tennessee, a more violent tornado claimed at least nine lives, destroying at least 72 houses. Four of the fatalities were in the same structure in the Rose Creek area, said McNairy County Mayor Larry Smith. Three storm cells hit McNairy County Friday night, taking almost exactly the same path, causing damage to 35-40% of the county, officials said Saturday.
Readyville in Cannon County just over the Rutherford County also experienced widespread damage, where residents and historic structures were destroyed, including beloved Russell's Market, where customers could grab a book and a bolongna sandwich.
Marshall County Emergency Management Deputy Director Kevin Calahan said the tornado swept along a nearly four-mile path, leaving many homes, commercial buildings and trees damaged, much of which were completely destroyed.
"The tornado set down on Egypt Road, and we tracked the damages to about a 3.9-mile track, literally going outside of our county line into Rutherford County," Calahan said. "We had barns and out buildings, eight of which were totally destroyed, six damaged. We had two commercial buildings damaged, eight houses damaged and two that were pretty much destroyed."
Additional damages included five rail cars, of which Calahan said the wind "pretty much picked them up off the tracks and threw them off to the side of the railroad, and that was along U.S. Highway 31."
This was also the second tornado reported in the area this year, the first occurring in Lawrence County in February. However, a tornado and damages of this magnitude had not been reported since the 1970s, Calahan said.
"We're having to go back to the 1970s to find one that had a pretty long track," Calahan said. "The EF2 that set down earlier this year, thankfully did not destroy many homes and kind of hid out in a wooded area. There were some things torn up, barns and trees, but this has been a really active weather period for us so far."
In addition to cleanup efforts conducted over the weekend, American Red Cross has also reached out to the effected residents and property owners to assist.
"Thankfully, no injuries or fatalities and everyone was okay," Calahan said. "We had one lady in one of the homes that was destroyed, but she made it out OK."
In the wake of the storms, as the damage was being assessed and cleanup efforts began to clear the streets, yards and other properties, many volunteers, nonprofit groups and neighbors pitched in to help those with damaged homes.
Lewis County Mayor Jonah Keltner said the response from the community has been inspiring, seeing neighbor help neighbor in any way they can.
"Our community has been fantastic, I rode around the morning after and there were neighbors out helping their fellow neighbor pick up sticks in the yard, clear out the driveway, a lot of debris getting cleaned up," Keltner said. "There were also a few logging companies and local businesses who stepped up and weren't charging folks to help clear up the roads."
Keltner added that he is also receiving calls from surrounding counties and first responders offering work crews to continue the cleanup efforts.
"Perry County has reached out to help out, which is good teamwork we're seeing not just here, but with our surrounding counties," Keltner said. "We really appreciate how so many people have come together during times of trouble."
Wolters Named 4-H Vol of the Year (Press Release)
Maury County’s Dee Wolters has been named the 2023 Tennessee 4-H Salute to Excellence Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer.
Wolters has been the glue that has held many Maury County programs together. She leads the Homeschool/Community Club, helps facilitate and conduct Honor Club meetings, leads clubs in the public schools and helps with nearly every county 4-H event offered. She is always more than willing to volunteer her time to jump in wherever needed. This includes but is not limited to the County 4-H Public Speaking Contest, County 4-H Awards Banquet, the Maury County Fair and so many more. Dee is always willing to serve as a Maury County volunteer at overnight events such as 4-H Congress and 4-H Roundup.
Beyond volunteering within Maury County, Dee also serves on the state and national levels. As a member of the Tennessee 4-H VOLS State Committee, Dee helps to orchestrate, conduct and evaluate many state-level 4-H activities. As a member of the Planning Committee for the National 4-H Volunteer Conference at Rock Eagle, Dee has helped conduct the event and has helped Tennessee to have the largest state delegations in 2021 and 2022.
Dee has also been a past recipient of the Tennessee 4-H Adult Volunteer Leader Award and Central Region Friend of 4-H and attended National 4-H Congress as part of the official delegation.
Wolters’ passion for youth development is most evident in how she interacts with the youth. Dee spends countless hours mentoring the Maury County 4-H members. She takes the extra effort to get to know them individually and discover what motivates them. She is always willing to help students develop their speeches, demonstrations, and interviews. She also motivated the students to continue their 4-H journeys. Dee is a true community servant and lifelong friend of 4-H.
CCDJRF Supports St. Jude’s (Press Release)
Columbia Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat is proud to join St. Jude in the fight against childhood cancer and other pediatric diseases for the fourth straight year. St. Jude uses cutting-edge technology to perform barrier-breaking research that helps save the lives of many children in need every year. Unlike other hospitals, most funding comes from monthly donations and individual contributions. St. Jude provides care at no cost to the families they help. No family treated by St. Jude receives a bill for treatment, travel, housing, or food.
Columbia Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat is committed to making an impact by donating $150 for every new vehicle sold through April and May. We hope for a record-breaking number of donations this year to help St. Jude with its inspiring work.
For over 60 years, St. Jude has been advancing cures and preventing pediatric diseases through research and treatment. They are a worldwide leader in the fight against childhood cancer and other diseases. Please join us in helping St. Jude shine a light on the darkest situations. Together we can help families protect what matters most to them.
Located at 106 S. James Campbell Blvd, Columbia Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM Fiat is proud to continue its partnership with St. Jude for another year. We believe in their mission and are pleased to support such a wonderful cause. St. Jude performs revolutionary life-changing work at their facilities, and we are taking action to make a financial impact on their quest to find cures. If you are currently in the market for a new vehicle, visit us in-store or shop online at www.chryslerdodgejeepram.net, where purchasing a new car can help save lives.
Senior Salute Day (Press Release)
Maury County Public Schools invites area industries and businesses to their Senior Salute Day and Strive to Drive giveaway on Thursday, April 20, from 9 am to 1 pm at the Columbia Central High School Football Stadium at Maury County Park. During this event, one lucky senior will win a 2023 Jeep Compass from Columbia Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat!
In addition to the Jeep Compass giveaway, this event will showcase seniors from every MCPS high school and allow area businesses to meet over 800 students and share with them what your business has to offer.
If you are interested in participating in the Senior Salute Day career fair event, you can email email@example.com.
Where’s Maury the Mule? (MainStreetMaury)
The Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance kicked off their annual shop local passport adventure, “Where’s Maury the Mule?” last week. This event, presented by Stan McNabb Chevrolet of Columbia, encourages people to discover, explore, and support small businesses across Maury County.
Maury Alliance launched this event in 2016 to support local businesses and provide a fun activity for families during spring break and Mule week. “Where’s Maury the Mule?” is just one initiative from the Maury Alliance to help support the small business community, but it is one that both people and businesses look forward to each year. The event has grown every year since its inception and is now a two-week event with 35 participating businesses.
“I’ve lived in Maury County my whole life and discovered many new businesses while participating in Where’s Maury the Mule last year. It was my first time to participate in that event and me and a friend went to 30 businesses in a single day!” said Marvin Russel, the 2022 grand-prize winner.
Those interested in joining the search for Maury the Mule this year can pick up a passport from event sponsor Stan McNabb Chevrolet of Columbia, Maury Alliance, or any of the 35 participating businesses. Once you have a passport, visit as many local businesses as possible, find the Maury the Mule image hidden at each business, and get your passport stamped or signed by an employee.
Visiting at least five businesses will enter you into a participation drawing for Local First gift cards.
Visiting 20 businesses qualifies you for the grand-prize drawing. If you visit 25 businesses, you will get a double entry into the grand prize drawing, and if you visit 30 businesses, you will get at triple entry into the grand prize drawing.
To be entered into the grand prize drawing, passports must be turned in at the Maury Alliance office by Tuesday, April 11 at 5 pm. Winners will be randomly selected on Tuesday, April 12. Two lucky people will win the Grand Prize – which is $450 in gift cards from participating businesses. Maury Alliance’s Local First Gift Cards will also be given away.
Visit mauryalliance.com/wheresmaury23 for more information.
And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…
Mr. J. Charles “Charlie” Honeycutt, age 94, died on Thursday, March 30, 2023 at home in Columbia, TN. Funeral services for Mr. Honeycutt will be conducted Tuesday at 6:00 P.M. at First United Methodist Church in Columbia. The family will visit with friends Tuesday from 4:00 P.M. until service time at the church. Burial will be held at a later date privately with family at Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.
Mrs. Sheila Ann Wood Moore, 68, homemaker and resident of Mt. Pleasant, died Friday, March 31, 2023 at Maury Regional Medical Center. There are no services scheduled at this time for Mrs. Moore. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assistant the family with arrangements.
…And now, news from around the state…
Three State Legislators May be Expelled (Tennessean)
Tennessee House Republicans on Monday filed resolutions to expel three Democrats for "disorderly behavior" after the trio led protest chants for gun reform on the floor of the chamber last week in the wake of the deadly Covenant School shooting.
The official expulsion resolutions state the trio "did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions."
Lawmakers have not yet voted for expulsion. Once the House votes on the resolution, it is expected to trigger an expulsion process that would give the trio a chance to defend themselves at another floor session before a final expulsion vote.
Still, the resolutions were approved by a majority of the Republican caucus, which holds a supermajority in the General Assembly. Democrats will have little power to block expulsions if House Republicans move forward with a vote.
House Republican Caucus Chairman Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, referred to Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, as the "former representative" from Davidson County on Monday night.
The trio were present and voted on bills Monday night. Together, they represent more than 210,000 constituents.
On Thursday, the three House Democrats approached the podium between bills without being recognized to speak — breaching the chamber’s rules of procedure.
Sexton immediately recessed the chamber, halting legislative business for nearly an hour before it resumed, and ordered security to clear the House galleries.
With a bullhorn, Reps. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, Justin Jones of Nashville and Justin Pearson of Memphis led protestors in the galleries in several chants calling for gun reform. At no point did any demonstrators make their way onto the House floor.
Following the demonstration, Johnson, Pearson, and Jones' access to the Cordell Hull Legislative Office Building and member's parking garage was restricted. Johnson told reporters Monday that her building access badge had been deactivated, and she was unable to access the building to retrieve her mobility scooter over the weekend.
Doug Kufner, a spokesperson for Sexton, confirmed access was restricted for the three members on Monday.
"Rep. Johnson was on limited access after her antics on Thursday," Kufner stated. "A trooper is always on-site, and the number is posted on the door outside the garage. They could have helped her. Rep. Johnson could have also called her leadership team for her caucus, the clerk, the speaker's office, or HR if she has trouble accessing the building."
All three continue to have access to their offices and legislative staff. Both Pearson and Jones spoke on the floor Monday night.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, stripped Johnson and Jones of their committee assignments. Pearson does not serve on any committees.
"What they did was try to hold up the people's business on the House floor instead of doing it the way that they should have done it, which they have the means to do," Sexton said. "They actually thought that they would be arrested. And so they decided that them being a victim was more important than focusing on the six victims from Monday. And that's appalling."
Waiting outside the chamber on Monday night, Jones said a bipartisan expulsion vote would be "unprecedented."
The last time the House expelled a sitting lawmaker was in 2016 when the chamber voted 70-2 to remove then-Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, from the House for alleged sexual misconduct. At the time, it was the first expulsion since 1980 and only the second since the Civil War.
Robert Fisher was kicked out of the House in 1980 after being convicted of soliciting a $1,000 bribe in exchange to kill a bill. Six lawmakers were ousted during an 1866 special session after they tried to prevent Tennessee from ratifying an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to provide citizenship to former slaves.
Last year, for the first time in its history, the Tennessee Senate voted to expel a senator, stripping Sen. Katrina Robinson, D-Memphis, of her elected position following her federal conviction on federal wire fraud charges.
New Legislation in Wake of Covenant (WKRN)
Governor Bill Lee announced new funding for school security, including $140 million for public schools to hire School Resource Officers and highly-trained guards, a new grant fund for both public and non-public schools and increased mental health funding. This marks the first live public comments for the governor since The Covenant School shooting.
In the days following the tragedy that took the lives of six people, including three children, rallying cries for gun control have been heard on the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol, as well as inside the Capitol building.
On Monday morning, thousands of students across Nashville walked out of class at 10:13 a.m., exactly one week after Metro police received the first 911 call from The Covenant School, and made their way to the Capitol to call for action on gun violence.
Last Thursday, three days after the shooting, a grassroots rally drew thousands of parents and other community members to the Capitol as they faced lawmakers who began the legislative session that morning.
Last Tuesday, a day after the events at Covenant School, Lee took to YouTube to address the mass shooting.
In his address, Lee mourned the loss of the six victims, saying, “some parents woke up without children, children woke up without parents and without teachers, and spouses woke up without their loved ones.”
The governor announced the $140 million budget amendment would take the burden of school security off of teachers, schools and school districts.
“There is no excuse to not have a guard at every school,” the governor said.
The new grant fund will allow for schools to make “significant physical security upgrades” at both public and non-public schools across the state, he added.
Third, the increase in mental health resource funding would constitute a double of the current amount of funding the state has for the mental health liaisons. The increased funding would expand the number of liaisons from just one in every county to multiple in counties across the state.
Prior to Monday’s announcement, the governor said the budget for this year included funding for one Homeland Security agent in every county in order to “prevent threats before they become tragedies.” Additionally, the budget would have increased accountability around school safety in order to ensure that exterior doors were locked at all times while students were in the classroom.
One thing the governor did not mention specifically was any kind of gun control. Instead, the governor said there was a “serious conversation need about school safety.”
“Collectively, the leadership in our office and the general assembly is working to find the way forward to look not only to the solutions that we lay out today but solutions that will be worked together in the weeks to come to make our state a safer place so that all of our kids can come home safely after school,” the governor said.
When asked if he would support a gun control measure known as a “red flag” law, Lee said one thing everyone could probably agree on was that “a person who is a threat to themselves or a threat to others should not have access to weapons,” but said he wanted to find a way to accomplish that without infringing on constitutional rights.
“To the degree that we can do that, protecting the constitutional rights of our people at the same time, including that person, the way that we do that together is the way forward,” he said. “We should look at ways to accomplish that.”
Lee said he and others in the legislature would likely look to legislation in other states in order to determine which future measures would work best for Tennesseans.
“There would be an opportunity to look around the country at ways that we can in fact do that very thing, which is make sure that those who are a threat to our people, to our children, do not have access to weapons, protecting the constitutional rights of Tennesseans at the same time. That is the way forward,” he said.
While Lee’s plan seeks to add an SRO into every school in Tennessee, questions about staffing issues and officer shortages were also address by the governor.
“We acknowledge that law enforcement recruitment is very difficult, but the very first step—you have to take away the restrictions to a district. The very first one is the dollars involved in hiring one of these officers. We’ll work together with districts to work together with local law enforcement agencies to find these,” he said.
Road Closures (Press Release)
The Tennessee Department of Transportation will suspend all interstate construction work on Easter weekend in anticipation of increased holiday travel.
TDOT crews and contractors will stop all road construction work that requires lane closures beginning Thursday, April 6 at 6:00 p.m. through Monday, April 10 at 6:00 a.m. This will provide maximum roadway capacity to motorists expected to travel across the state this holiday weekend.
Motorists will still encounter some long-term lane closures on construction projects that will remain in place. While lane closure activity will be stopped, some workers may be on-site in construction zones, and reduced speed limits will still be in effect. Motorists are urged to adhere to all posted speed limits, especially in work zones, for their safety. Slower speeds are necessary for work zones due to the temporary layout of the roadway and will be enforced.
Landmark Transportation Bill Passes (Press Release)
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) marked the legislative passage of the Lee administration’s Transportation Modernization Act, a landmark bill that will create a new strategy and invest $3.3 billion to accommodate Tennessee’s record growth, address traffic congestion and meet transportation needs across rural and urban communities. This historic legislation has received support from dozens of organizations across Tennessee and will now head to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.
“Tennessee needs a transportation strategy fit for the fastest-growing state in the nation, and our plan will prepare rural and urban communities for continued growth and economic opportunity, all without new taxes or debt,” said Governor Bill Lee. “I commend the General Assembly for its partnership to meet our state’s transportation needs.”
The legislation will give TDOT the resources needed to solve the state’s current and future mobility challenges, including seeking the use of public-private partnerships to preserve state funds for rural infrastructure priorities, exploring Choice Lanes to decrease congestion and increase economic impact statewide, and expanding the alternative delivery model to save taxpayer dollars and deliver road projects more efficiently.
“Tennessee’s strategic transportation plan will prepare TDOT with the resources needed to build and maintain roads across our rural and urban communities,” said TDOT Commissioner Butch Eley. “We appreciate the support of the legislature and key partners as we pave the way for Tennessee’s continued prosperity.”
Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)
The band KISS announced four additional dates to its “End of the Road” world tour, their final tour. One of those dates will be at Bridgestone Arena on October 23, 2023.
The band’s current roster is made up of original members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons as well as Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer. Their best-known songs include “Rock and Roll All Nite,” “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” and “Detroit Rock City.”
Tickets go on sale on Friday, April 7th at 10 am. Find tickets at www.ticketmaster.com.