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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

BREAKING: Students seek shelter following campus-wide tornado warning

At approximately 3:55 a.m. CST students were able to return to their rooms after seeking shelter following a tornado warning.
Katherine Oung
Student seek shelter following tornado warning in the basement of Crawford House, as photographed on Dec. 11, 2021. (Huster Staff/Katherine Oung)

UPDATED: This story was last updated at 3:53 p.m. CST on Dec. 11. 

At approximately 3 a.m. CST on Dec. 11, AlertVU phone and email messages as well as the campus loudspeaker system informed students of a tornado warning, instructing them to seek shelter. 

“ALERT! A Tornado Warning has been issued for the Vanderbilt main campus,” an alert from Vanderbilt University Public Safety (VUPS) reads. “Seek shelter immediately! Avoid windows and doors. Monitor local weather reports for additional information.”

Students in residence halls were told to go to the basements of their buildings until they received an all-clear to return to their rooms, which was given at approximately 3:55 a.m. CST. 

“The Tornado Warning has expired for the Vanderbilt main campus,” the alert reads. “Severe weather may still be possible. Please continue to monitor local weather reports.”

Students are instructed to call 911 or VUPD at 615-421-1911 for emergencies, or email [email protected] for non-emergency inquiries.

The National Weather Service Tornado and Severe Thunderstorm Warning remained in effect until 4:15 a.m. CST, and Davidson County remained on tornado watch until 5:00 a.m. CST, per the Tennessean.

“Wind gusts also reached record highs of 78 mph at Nashville International Airport around 3:30 a.m., according to the National Weather Service,” the Tennessean reported.

Gabby Wodka, a sophomore and Resident Advisor (RA) on floor nine of Lewis House, said that RAs had a training session before the semester regarding protocol in the event of storms, floods and fires.

“It was at the beginning of August and all the sessions were packed together in a day. People talked at us for hours, but I genuinely don’t remember much of what they told us,” Wodka said. “[We] mainly follow direction from VUPD and area coordinators.” 

Wodka said she texted in her floor GroupMe during the tornado warning instructing residents to go to the basement and knocked on all of the doors. She also stated she received a text from her area coordinator at around 3:30 a.m. CST telling her to instruct people to stay in the basement until 4 a.m. CST. 

Several students report sleeping through all of the alerts. Caitie Cushing, a junior who lives in a Village at Vanderbilt Townhome, said she is “terrified” of storms, emphasizing they are her “biggest fear,” and that she slept through the notifications and alarm. 

“I was just really freaked out because normally I wake up for these, but what if something bad had happened?” Cushing said. “I was just surprised it didn’t go through my phone; Vanderbilt’s calls and texts can’t go through the sleep mode and I think my ringer was off too.”

Cushing said her fear of storms kept her up at night during the thunderstorms earlier in the week. Last night, she checked the radar before bed and assumed she would wake up if/when the storms hit campus. 

“I woke up [at my 7:30 alarm] and checked my notifications and I had missed calls from Vanderbilt and the emergency system alert and from all of my friends,” Cushing said.

Cushing said her roommate woke up but, being from Alabama, was more familiar with tornados and didn’t feel the need to wake her up. Wodka similarly reported some students felt more comfortable with the situation than others. 

“I did notice that the students who grew up locally or in areas with heavy tornadoes were much more calm and unfazed throughout the whole thing since it felt routine to them,” Wodka said.

Meira Kowalski, a sophomore in Branscomb Quadrangle, woke up to the alarm. She was considering not going downstairs at first but, after receiving alerts and calls following the alarm, proceeded to the basement of Branscomb. 

“I wasn’t going to go back to sleep anyways because it [the alarms] were blaring and then I went outside and everyone else was in the hall,” Kowalski said. “I didn’t really know what to do so I was like I guess I’ll just follow what everyone else is doing.” 

Kowalski reports being most annoyed by the continued blaring of the alarms from 3:55 a.m. CST, after students received the all clear, until 4:20 a.m. notifying students the tornado was over as she was trying to go back to sleep.

“I also wish they would have told us in advance to expect this or to check the radar,” Kowalski said. 

The Weather Channel has named the tornadoes a part of a Winter Storm Atticus. The storm has swept across the Southeast and southern Midwest, with Tennessee sustaining the largest number (145,000) of power outages of any state. Nashville Electric Service reported 75,000 outages in the city by 10:30 a.m. CST, per the Tennessean. 

Two deaths were reported in northwest Tennessee’s Lake County and a third in Obion County, according to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency,” the Tennessean reports

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency last night and said the death count is “north of 70” and could exceed 100. A candle factory hit by the tornado had 110 people in it, and emergency workers and national guard members are working to help find survivors, per AP News

This will be, I believe, the deadliest tornado system to ever run through Kentucky,” Beshear said.

Governor Bill Lee said he is working to assess the damage to Tennessee and extended his sympathies to all the states hit by the tornado. 

“We are working with @T_E_M_A & first responders to evaluate the impacts of severe overnight storms and & deploying resources to immediately assist communities,” Lee posted on Twitter. “Maria and I pray for families, including our neighbors in Kentucky, who are facing loss of life and devastation today.”

Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Tracey George and Vice Provost for Student Affairs G.L. Black sent an email to the Vanderbilt community addressing the floods at approximately 1:00 p.m. CST Dec. 11. Per the email, the university is still looking into potential community impacts, but there are no reports of damage to either the university and community member’s homes at this time.

“Our thoughts are with you, and with those in some of the hardest hit areas, such as our neighbors in Kentucky,” the email reads.

The email also listed a myriad of resources for students to reach out to if they have been affected by the tornado or need support. Resources include the following: Dean of Students, Office of Student Care Coordination, Employee Assistance Program, Student Hardship Fund, Vanderbilt Hardship Fund, Graduate Academic Life Coach, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, International Student & Scholar Services, as well as the University Counseling Center.

This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes avaliable.

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About the Contributors
Charlotte Mauger
Charlotte Mauger, Staff Writer
Charlotte Mauger ('24) is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in public policy with a minor in French. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her on FaceTime with her cats, watching movies or exploring all Nashville has to offer. You can reach her at [email protected].
Katherine Oung
Katherine Oung, Data Editor
Katherine Oung ('25) is majoring in political science and computer science and minoring in data science in the College of Arts and Science. They are from West Palm Beach, Fla., and were previously Deputy News Editor and Managing Editor. Katherine enjoys working on freelance journalism projects and making incredibly specific Spotify playlists. They can be reached at [email protected].
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