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Debris is scattered across the parking lot of a damaged apartment building after a tornado hit Nashville in the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (Courtney Pedroza/The Tennessean via AP)

This story was updated at 12:05 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, with more information.

NASHVILLE — Two state lawmakers from Hamilton County say they are shaken but unharmed after deadly tornadoes struck Nashville and high winds hurled debris at their hotel room windows early Tuesday morning.

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, D-Chattanooga, told the Times Free Press they were rousted out of bed about 1 a.m. by loud sounds.

"I heard all this stuff hitting the window,, some big stuff started hitting," said Gardenhire, who was asleep in his 6th floor room at the Clarion hotel near Nissan Stadium.

After hearing the crash of breaking glass from the room next door, Gardenhire ran to the bathroom and "just leaned up against the door as hard as I could."

Asked if he had been frightened, Gardenhire said, "I wasn't frightened. I was scared."

Upstairs on the 7th floor, Hakeem was awakened by what he thought was a shaking and hissing heating and air conditioning unit.

"It was dancing. I thought it was about to blow. Next thing, you have the roaring like a train," Hakeem said as he, too, sought safety in his room's bathroom while small chunks of material were falling from the ceiling.

Looking out the window later, Hakeem saw power lines and poles down in streets, then realized the hissing was from sparking lines and that a tornado had just come through.

Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, said he and other members of Hamilton County legislative delegation members are safe after the deadly tornadoes struck Nashville and other Middle Tennessee counties. At least 19 people were killed, dozens of buildings were damaged, there were power outages and all of it happened just before Super Tuesday voting in Tennessee was getting underway.

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The window of an SUV owned by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, is seen damaged after tornadoes ripped through the Nashville area on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. / Staff photo by Andy Sher

The deadly storms forced closure and relocation of several polling stations in Nashville and other areas in Middle Tennessee, Secretary of State Tre Hargett said in a tweet.

"I know this pales by comparison to what many are dealing with this am," Hargett texted. "Big thank yous to our election officials who are working through some difficult circumstances today."

With power cut off at the Cordell Hull State Office Building, home to the Tennessee General Assembly, morning committee hearings were cancelled and it appeared afternoon activity was delayed with emergency crews still working furiously across Nashville to free trapped people, restore power, battle broken water lines and remove debris.

While Gardenhire wasn't physically harmed, his new SUV didn't fare so well. A back window was smashed as debris flew and light poles fell in the hotel parking lot.

This is a developing story.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

 

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