Tennessee tornado victims include 'beautiful family' of 3, couple in their 80's

Rescue workers fanned out again Wednesday through some shattered middle Tennessee communities after tornadoes ripped through the region, killing at least 24, some of whom have been identified.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter said the death toll remained at 18 in the county east of Nashville, where a tornado damaged more than 100 structures. In the 2-mile path of destruction, some homes were ripped from their foundations and the wreckage was flung far away.

"We ask that you please keep those families in your prayers," Porter told reporters. "We have lots of folks, citizens, and families of Putnam County who are suffering this morning due to the loss of these loved ones."

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Porter said the number of unaccounted for had "decreased dramatically" to 22 as of Wednesday morning after initially 78 missing people were reported.

"We're hoping to decrease it down to zero," he told reporters. Officials plan to search a 20- to 25-acre marshy field filled with debris before weather impacts efforts on Thursday.

A woman salvages item from a destroyed home Tuesday, March 3, 2020, near Lebanon, Tenn.

A woman salvages item from a destroyed home Tuesday, March 3, 2020, near Lebanon, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Officials in Putnam County said they have identified most of the 18 people killed in the tornado in that area, which included five young children and 13 adults.

The remains of homes shattered by storms are scattered near Cookeville, Tenn., Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

The remains of homes shattered by storms are scattered near Cookeville, Tenn., Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

All but one of the victims have been identified, according to Porter. Authorities still need to identify a 30- to 35-year-old white female with dark curly hair who is about 5-feet 8-inches tall and was found in the Echo Valley Apartment area.

Three members of a family in Cookeville, Tenn., were identified by family and friends as among those killed in the Putnam County twister. A post on Facebook from Lauren Pitts says that Josh, Erin and their 2-year-old son Sawyer Kimberlin are "all in heaven together."

"We’re devastated with this news," Pitts, a family friend, wrote. "They were a beautiful family."

Erin Kimberlin, a teacher, was among those killed in the tornado.

Erin Kimberlin, a teacher, was among those killed in the tornado. (Melodee Bartlett-Maples/Lorie Ann Krauss)

"Erin was the best of our cousins. Josh was one of the best men I had the pleasure of knowing,"  Jesse Pitts wrote. "Sawyer was a beautiful, amazing little guy with so much life ahead."

Erin was identified as the " kindest most attentive teacher" by the parent of one of her students, Melodee Bartlett-Maples.

"She would often tell me the boys in this class were her favorites... I’m sure she has whispered this to all class moms," she wrote.

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All but one of the victims in Putnam County have been identified as: Jessica Clark, who is in her 30s; Amanda Cole, 34; 3-to-4-year-old Hattie Collins; 6-year-old Dawson Curtis; Terry Curtis, 54; Joshua Kimberlin, who is his 30s; 2 year-old Sawyer Kimberlin; Erin Kimberlin, who is in her 30s; Todd and Sue Koehler, who are in their 50s; Patricia Lane, 67; Leisha Littenberry, 28; Harlan Marsh, who is between 4 and 5 years old; Bridgette (Ann Marie) McCormick, who is believed to be between 12 to 13-years-old; Keith Selby and Cathy Selby; and Jamie Smith, who is believed to be between 30 to 35-years-old.

Friends of the Curtis family said that Terry Curtis was an "amazing father, husband, friend, business owner" who loved his wife and his family "fiercely," while Dawson Curtis, 6, "loved everyone."

"Our worlds are shattered," Parrish Burgess shared on Facebook.

People work to salvage items Tuesday, March 3, 2020, near Cookeville, Tenn. 

People work to salvage items Tuesday, March 3, 2020, near Cookeville, Tenn.  (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

In Wilson County, officials identified the victims in the town of Mount Juliet, east of Nashville.

The Mt. Juliet Police Department said two adults were found dead in a destroyed home in the tornado’s path. Another person died overnight.

A road separates properties filled with debris Tuesday, March 3, 2020, near Lebanon, Tenn.

A road separates properties filled with debris Tuesday, March 3, 2020, near Lebanon, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Officials identified the couple as James and Donna Eaton, 84 and 81, who were killed at their home on Catalpa Drive. Brandy Barker, 38, of Lebanon was killed at a CEVA warehouse on Athletes Way North while working security, according to police.

"Tragically, 3 individuals lost their life in Mt. Juliet’s tornado, & our hearts go out to their families & loved ones," the department said.

Damaged vehicles and buildings are seen in East Nashville after a tornado hit the city in the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

Damaged vehicles and buildings are seen in East Nashville after a tornado hit the city in the early morning hours of Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (Jacqueline Cassell/Twitter/Courtney Pedroza/The Tennessean via AP)

In Nashville, the Metro Nashville Police Department identified two people killed in East Nashville when the tornado struck 36-year-old Michael Dolfini and his girlfriend, Albree Sexton, 33. The couple had just left the Attaboy lounge, where Dolfini worked, when they were fatally injured by debris, according to police.

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Gov. Bill Lee declared an emergency and sent the National Guard to help with search-and-rescue efforts. Police kept parts of Putnam County cordoned off, and imposed an 8 p.m.-8 a.m. curfew as the grim search continued into Wednesday.

"It is tragic and heartbreaking," Lee told "America's Newsroom" on Wednesday, saying a "large swath of the state" was impacted by the severe weather.

More than 140 buildings were shredded across Tennessee early Tuesday as the storms moved through, burying people in piles of rubble and wrecked basements.

The 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, with wind speeds up to 165 mph. One twister wrecked homes and businesses across a 10-mile stretch of Nashville that included parts of downtown and an abandoned prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.