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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for December 11, 2023


All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.


We start with local news…

Tornadoes in Middle Tennessee (Tennessean)

Emergency workers, storm-survey teams, friends, family and strangers were all working together to pick through the rubble across Middle Tennessee Sunday after the greater Nashville region was pummeled by "six likely" tornadoes late Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Six people were confirmed dead Saturday night in Clarksville and Madison, and more than 80 were treated at hospitals, according to local officials.

The hardest-hit areas of Clarksville, Madison, Hendersonville, Gallatin and Springfield were being surveyed by National Weather Service officials to determine the strength of the storms and whether they were officially tornadoes, said NWS meteorologist Cory Mueller.

“Yesterday was unfortunately another heartbreaking day for Nashville and so many in our Middle Tennessee community,” Mayor Freddie O’Connell said in a news conference Sunday morning before thanking first responders, many of whom worked through the night.

Twenty-two structures collapsed as a result of the storm and “countless” others were damaged, O’Connell said.

“Nashville is a place where when we face adversity, the community always steps up,” O’Connell said. “The amount of outreach I have received … has been astonishing.”

Here are several ways residents can get help.

The City of Clarksville has set up a hotline for those willing to volunteer with debris clean-up.

To volunteer to help with tornado recovery efforts, call 931-245-2988, city of Clarksville Communications Director Jimmy Settle said Sunday at a news conference at Northeast High School in Clarksville. A shelter is also set up at the high school and Mosaic Church for those displaced. 

“One thing I love about this city — when there’s a need, we rally around that need, and we had neighbor helping neighbor,” Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts said of crews and volunteers that helped through the night.

Hands on Tennessee, a local organization that regularly assists in debris removal, food distribution and more following disasters, has announced that it is "working closely" with Nashville officials "on next steps following the devastating tornadoes that impacted our communities over the weekend."

"At this time, it is important for volunteers to not deploy and wait for further instruction from first responders," the statement said. "We appreciate your patience and understanding until it is safe to assist."

Updates on upcoming volunteer efforts through the organization can be found on their social media accounts.

Blood Assurance, a nonprofit regional blood center serving health care facilities in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky and North Carolina, reported that the company had to ship extra blood, platelet and plasma units to several Middle Tennessee hospitals treating patients with storm-related injuries Saturday night.

On Monday, all Blood Assurance donation centers will be open and you can schedule a donation by visiting www.bloodassurance.org.

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and United Way have both set up relief funds to assist those impacted by the Dec. 9 tornadoes, in collaboration with the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County and its Office of Emergency Management.

The two organizations are also jointly supporting recovery efforts in Cheatham, Dickson, Montgomery, Robertson and Sumner Counties through the Tennessee Emergency Response Fund.

The funds raised by both organizations provide "critical support to nonprofit and faith-based partners actively working to address survivors’ needs," and "address urgent needs such as financial assistance, food and nutrition, temporary housing, debris clean-up and animal sheltering."

Additionally, the Salvation Army announced Sunday that it is preparing to respond to areas affected across Middle Tennessee.

"Currently, we are assessing areas that have been hit and will begin snack and hydration service alongside emotional and spiritual care later today in the Madison and Clarksville communities," a statement read.

The Salvation Army accepts monetary donations for disaster response, which can be made at www.helpsalvationarmy.org or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY.

Ogles Fined for Campaign Funds Violations (TheNewsTN)

U.S. Rep Andy Ogles has paid a $5,750 civil penalty for multiple campaign finance violations incurred during the 2021-2022 election cycle, an Federal Election Commission spokesperson confirmed. The commission agreed to the fine in early October after assessing Ogles’ campaign with multiple penalties for missing and late-filed reports, illegal contributions and insufficient reporting documents.

The Ogles campaign blamed its compliance issues on “internal miscommunication,” according to the publicly released settlement terms. In addition to the fine, Ogles’ campaign has until Jan. 2 to set up a specific tracking and reporting process with the FEC and must undergo additional training with the FEC by October.

An FEC audit from March found more than 10 campaign finance violations from Ogles’ 2022 campaign. The report details $90,000 in unreported receipts from October 2022 and an undisclosed $50,000 transfer between political committees. Letters from the FEC also name former Ogles treasurer Lee Beaman and Thomas Datwyler, a Wisconsin-based compliance consultant associated with multiple instances of improper bookkeeping for Republican candidates across the country.

Elected mayor of Maury County in 2018, Ogles built a reputation among Tennessee’s far right by opposing COVID precautions and gun control. Last year, Ogles won the Republican nomination for Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District over former speaker of the Tennessee House Beth Harwell and retired National Guard Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead, both viewed as moderate alternatives to Ogles. In November 2022, he comfortably beat Democratic state Sen. Heidi Campbell, for the seat. The district previously contained all of Davidson County and was represented by centrist Democrat Jim Cooper before state lawmakers split up Nashville into three congressional districts. 

Rep. Ogles’ office did not respond to a request for comment.

Plane Crash Update (CDH)

A single-engine airplane that took off from Knoxville on Thursday morning before crashing in Giles County near Pulaski is registered to a Knoxville company and pilot who documents her flights on YouTube to an audience of nearly 16,000 subscribers.

Jenny Blalock, 45, whose TNFlygirl account on YouTube has 15.7K followers and 139 videos, died in the crash.

Her father, James Blalock Jr., 78, who was the passenger in the plane, also died, said Bill Myers, director of emergency services for Giles County.

Jenny Blalock's aviation videos include one from a month ago showing her preparing to navigate an emergency landing due to a malfunction at 4,000 feet in the air.

The plane that crashed is a single-engine 1965 Beechcraft Bonanza.

Blalock documents her flights on Instagram as 865flygirl. The Instagram bio mentions the plane that, according to FlightAware.com, took off from Island Home Airport in Knoxville at 10:48 a.m. Thursday and was headed for the airport in Pulaski when it crashed a little more than an hour later.

The crash happened around 11:15 a.m., according to a spokesperson from the Federal Aviation Administration. Officials with the Abernathy Field Airport in Pulaski reported the plane had gone down about seven or eight miles northeast of the airport, and a Giles County Sheriff’s Office staff member said the crash took place near the Marshall County line.

"Bystanders saw the plane go down," said Myers. "This was in a remote area of the county and a remote area of the property, so it took some time to reach."

A spokesperson from the Federal Aviation Administration said the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating, with NTSB in charge of the investigation and providing updates.

Myers said the plane crashed into a hillside and two people inside were killed. An area search is being conducted to make sure there are no other victims, he added.

On Sept. 12, Blalock posted to Instagram that she "hit over 400 hours!" She also indicated she would be finishing her instrument training "soon" to "broaden my aviation horizon!"

Instrument ratings allow pilots to rely on instrumentation to navigate when skies are not clear.

Now for some local news…

Fire Station No. 1 Renovation (CDH)

Columbia Fire & Rescue's Station No. 1 is prepped to undergo a long-awaited renovation, which would not only update the existing facility, but expand it and provide additional services to employees.

Plans for the renovations were first presented to Columbia City Council in July of 2022, and were revisited Thursday during the board's Dec. 7 study session, which included comments from main architect George Nuber.

"We are excited, as well as our crews to get this project underway," Fire Chief Ty Cobb said.

The project is estimated to cost approximately $4.8 million and will be overseen by Nuber and Brindley Construction.

"It took a season of time for us to wait for the opportune time to put this project together," Nuber said. "We took advantage of that time at numerous meetings to discuss the expectations of what they are looking for with this building."

The renovations plan to not only upgrade the current 13,675 square-foot 1000 S. Garden St. facility but expand it as well. This includes adding an east and west wing that would add sections for men and women dorms, a training center and bringing the facility up to the modern energy code standards.

"This facility is tired, and basically we have to gut the interior to make the upgrades, which include electrical, Wi-Fi, not to mention design changes and staff expectations," Nuber said. "We took a lot of liberties in beefing up this building's thermal ratings. That will help the lifecycle costs when it comes to heating and cooling the facility."

In addition, the building will also be designed to withstand an F3 level tornado, which would allow the command center and IT to remain in place in the case of severe weather, if such an event were to occur.

The renovations will also include a 35-person training/community room, upgrades to the kitchen and is designed in a way that is segregated from the rest of the facility, which Nuber said is for security reasons. Parking will also be added to the rear of the building, as well as a new roof with an estimated 30-year lifespan.

"The good news about this building is that we are gutting just about everything, and so all of the 'surprises' will be gone potentially," Nuber said. "We believe, structurally, it's a very sound building, so there shouldn't be a lot of surprises. But our responsibility as professionals is to monitor the work every month, if not multiple times a month. We will make sure that what we inspect is what's being installed."

If approved at the Council's Dec.14 regular meeting, Nuber said the project is expected to take an estimated 12 months to complete.

"This is a great report, and very exciting to see this project come to its next phase," Mayor Chaz Molder said.

Spring Hill Christmas Parade Postponed (MauryCountySource)

Due to the severe weather on Saturday, the City of Spring Hill postponed the Christmas Parade from Saturday, December 9, to Saturday, December 16, 2023. The parade will begin at 5 p.m. and all logistics will remain the same.

If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact the City of Spring Hill at commdept@springhilltn.org.

Master Gardener Program (Press Release)

The 2024 Class for the Tennessee Extension Master Gardeners (TEMG) is now open for registration. The TEMG program is so much more than a home horticulture class, it requires the class participants to make a commitment to the local Master Gardener Association, to community service, and to assist the UT Extension staff with the educational efforts within Maury County. Please return your completed application and payment as soon as possible. The class will be held to a manageable size and seats will be held on an as paid basis. For more information and an application, visit www.maury.tennessee.edu. The final application and payment deadline has been extended to Friday December 15, 2023.

Sobriety Checkpoint (Press Release)

The Tennessee Highway Patrol will be conducting sobriety roadside safety checkpoints during the week of December 15th on State Hwy 7 .1 miles south of Knob Creek in Maury County starting at 10:00pm.

Impaired driving is a serious crime that kills more than 16,000 people and injures 305,000 people every year in the United States. Troopers will evaluate drivers for signs of alcohol or drug impairment. Troopers will target those who operate a vehicle while impaired and take corrective actions for other violations observed while ensuring the protection of all motorists.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol recognizes that sobriety checkpoints are highly visible and effective tools in the battle against impaired driving.

King’s Daughters Christmas Drive (CDH)

The King’s Daughters’ School and Heritage Bank & Trust are once again seeking help to make many Christmas wishes come true with the 23rd annual Santa's Mailbox gift drive.

The annual drive will run through Thursday, Dec. 14.

Wish letters can be picked up from Santa’s Mailbox at Heritage Bank & Trust branches in Columbia and Mt. Pleasant. The letters are from disadvantaged King’s Daughters’ students and state-custody kids who will be spending Christmas on campus.

Students have written down their Christmas wishes in letters to Santa.

"Santa’s Mailbox should be easy to spot when you walk into a Heritage Bank & Trust lobby. Each letter contains one Christmas wish item for a student," a press release states.

“We are so grateful to Heritage Bank & Trust for their support of our Santa’s Mailbox program. Many of our students cannot go home for the holidays, so the contributions of the bank, their customers, and our entire community make their Christmas wishes come true,” KDS Executive Director Shauna Pounders said.

Once gifts are returned, they will be wrapped by the King’s Daughters’ staff members and placed in Santa’s bag ready for delivery at the KDS campus Christmas Eve.

"The school and bank members thank you ahead of time for helping make Christmas special for each and every child at KDS," the press release states.

Heritage Bank & Trust is resuming hosting duties this year as a continued valued partner to KDS.

"Heritage Bank & Trust is proud to be a part of the wonderful work being done by The King's Daughters' School," says Shelli Golden, KDS Board Member and EVP, Chief Risk Officer of Heritage Bank & Trust.

"Over the years, I have served on the Board of Directors of The King's Daughters' School, and I continue to be impressed with the care and compassion given to each student to make their lives the best that it can be. Heritage is honored to partner with an organization making such a great impact on our community." Santa’s Mailboxes are located in two Maury County Heritage Bank & Trust lobbies: 217 South James Campbell Blvd., and 109 South Main St. in Mt. Pleasant.

The King’s Daughters’ School is a nonprofit residential school that has provided academic, vocational, and life-skills training to students with developmental delays for over 60 years.

MRMC Job Event (Press Release)

Maury Regional Health (MRH) will host a walk-in career event for positions in clinical and non-clinical areas on the second Thursday of each month beginning December 14 from 3-6 p.m. in the Human Resources conference room at Maury Regional Medical Center located at 1224 Trotwood Avenue in Columbia.

Applicants interested in joining a nationally recognized health care system should bring a copy of their résumé to this hiring event — no application required. During the visit, candidates will have the opportunity to speak with members of the talent acquisition team about positions and opportunities at Maury Regional Health’s southern Middle Tennessee locations as well as to learn more about our comprehensive benefits, educational assistance programs and more.

Positions of possible interest include but are not limited to:

Nurse technician

Registered nurse (RN)

Physical therapist

Pharmacy technician

Licensed practical nurse (LPN)

Medical lab technician

Registrars

Dietary services

Facility services

Environmental services

Applicants who are unable to attend the walk-in event on December 14 but are interested in exploring open positions are encouraged to contact the Human Resources Department at 931.380.4017 or careers@mauryregional.com.

And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  

David Olan Malone passed away peacefully in his home, on December 6, 2023 at the age of 84. 

The family will visit with friends for service on Thursday, December 14 , 2023 from 4 P.M. to 5 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols funeral home in Columbia, TN. A celebration of life will follow immediately at the Rebel in Columbia.

Harvey Sherman Burkins, Jr., 71, retired millwright for General Motors, and resident of Columbia, died Thursday, December 7, 2023 at Maury Regional Medical Center.

Funeral services will be conducted Wednesday, December 13, 2023 at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Wednesday from 12:00 P.M. to 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

Johnny N. Wooten, 86, a resident of Columbia, TN passed away on December 7, 2023.

Visitation will be held at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home in Columbia, TN on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, from 4:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. A memorial service will follow on Saturday, January 6, 2024, at 10:00 A.M., also at Oakes and Nichols Funeral Home. Johnny will be laid to rest at Rose Hill Cemetery.

…And now, news from around the state…

More on Tornadoes (Tennessean)

A tattered American flag waved in the breeze at a car dealership in Madison, near Nesbitt Lane where two adults and a child were killed.

Residents of that battered neighborhood — and neighborhoods all across the path of destruction in Middle Tennessee from Saturday's storms — were outside helping each other, picking up debris and cleaning up wreckage. People from nearby streets were also walking over to see the damage. “This is unbelievable, so sad,” said one woman.

The storms ripped up chunks of roofs from homes, and toppled over trees and power lines.

As reports of damage piled up Sunday, residents of Middle Tennessee began to dig out, clean up debris and help each other. At least six people are confirmed dead as of Sunday morning, and the Gov. Bill Lee issued a Level-3 state of emergency.

Power was out at some time for 160,000 residents. Businesses and churches were destroyed. Trees toppled. Street signs blew down. Homes were rendered unlivable.

As many as 100 military families have been displaced from Fort Campbell housing in Clarksville. Across the region, nearly 80 people have been hospitalized.

Out-of-state crews are expected to arrive to assist the Nashville Electric Service later today. NES does not have a timeline for the restoration of power for the 26,000 homes still without power Sunday morning in Nashville. The outages in the Hendersonville area may last days, rather than hours.

Madison resident Frank Bassett said the tornado hit so fast that he barely had time to take cover with his with wife Pamela under a pile of pillows in corner of the living room.

“All of a sudden the wind picked up a hit us,” he said. “It was like a millisecond.”

His home, like many on the street, suffered major structural damage.

Carl Lindsey’s power was out so he made due by boiling tea from makeshift campfire.

Neighbor Nate Marsland’s home had major damage from an uprooted tree. For Marsland, this is his second disaster. His family lost their home in in Biloxi, Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina when he was 8 years old.

“It could be worse,” he said. “It could always be worse.”

On Dickerson Pike in Nashville, the Community Baptist Church was flattened, and dented cars had been thrown around the parking lot like they were toys.

John Sharpe, owner of Sharpe Hook Bait and Tackle store on Main Street in Hendersonville, moved boxes out of his store Sunday morning with his wife Whitney Bohannon and other volunteers.

Water damaged everything inside, leaving products unsellable.

"Everything is soaked, the roof is gone," Sharpe said. "I was out here all night, just trying to prevent people from stealing." 

Bohannon put shelved products into a box alongside employees and volunteers helping take out all of the items from the store.

"I feel emotional when friends and families and neighbors and complete strangers are showing up to help," Bohannon said.

A number of homes on opposite sides of each other along Airport Road in Gallatin had extensive damage as residents and friends started the massive cleanup work Sunday morning.

“I feel blessed, it could have been a lot worse,” said Ronald Durard, 68, as he and wife Ruthie were picking up the remains of two porches, two sheds, car port and house damage with friends and helpers joining the cleanup at their home in The Crossings neighborhood.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Ten years is a long enough wait for two powerhouse and legendary classic rockers to hit the road together again! STYX and FOREIGNER – who continue with the next leg of their two-year Farewell Tour – team up this summer for the “Renegades & Juke Box Heroes” co-headlining trek, produced by Live Nation. Legendary British rocker, John Waite, will bring his #1 songs, “Missing You” and “When I See You Smile” to the party, rounding out a great night of hits.

The tour will stop at Ascend Amphitheater on July 12, 2024. Tickets are on sale now.

Find tickets at concerts.livenation.com.


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