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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

Students and professors recount close calls with Dec. 9 Tennessee tornadoes

Students’ hometowns were heavily impacted by the tornado, the closest of which landed around 12 miles from Vanderbilt’s campus.
Abby Hoelscher
Moon hangs among silhouetted trees, as photographed on Oct. 26, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Abby Hoelscher)

Students shared how their neighborhoods were impacted by the tornadoes that touched down as close as 12 miles north of Vanderbilt’s campus on the evening of Dec. 9. While campus was not damaged by the storm, at least one professor canceled her class on the night of Dec. 9 due to the heavy rain and tornado warning issued to campus. 

Dean of Students G.L. Black notified students of the tornado watch in Middle Tennessee at around 1:45 p.m. CST. A tornado warning was later issued for Vanderbilt’s campus at 4:10 p.m. CST on Dec. 9, for which an AlertVU notice was issued at 4:45 p.m. CST. The messages instructed community members to seek shelter immediately. Tornado sirens near campus sounded at approximately 4:45 CST, with an intercom message similarly alerting campus community members to seek shelter. The tornado warning expired for Vanderbilt’s campus at around 5 p.m. CST, according to a follow-up AlertVU message.

Vanderbilt University Public Safety’s Disaster Outreach Program contacted students who it believed may have been impacted by the storm based on “student and employee records.” Some students with permanent addresses outside of Davidson County were contacted, while others were not. Vanderbilt also published suggestions as to how students can contribute to aid efforts on Dec. 13. 

Triston Jensen, a senior from Clarksville, Tenn., said his family’s home was spared from the tornado by only a few blocks. 

“We got really lucky,” Jensen said. “It did a lot of damage, took the roofs off a bunch of houses and even completely collapsed some, but first responders have already begun the process of repairs.” 

Amari Larry, an incoming member of the Class of 2028 also from Clarksville, Tenn., similarly said her family was unaffected by the tornado but that she has been volunteering in other neighborhoods in her city. 

“We are in the rural part of Clarksville, so we were completely unaffected,” Larry said. “There are some neighborhoods that were hit pretty hard. It was crazy; we weren’t expecting to get a tornado.”

Dr. Jo-Anne Bachorowski, associate professor of psychology, canceled class for HONS 1830W: Emotions in Context, which was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. CST on the night of the tornadoes. The class had been rescheduled from earlier in the week to that Saturday due to a broken elevator. She said she consulted multiple weather outlets before canceling the class — in which students were giving final presentations — to make sure the storm wouldn’t simply pass over Vanderbilt. 

“Within minutes of sending the email letting students know [about the canceled exam], sirens started going off near my house in Inglewood,” Bachorowski said. “That was good feedback!: Canceling class was the right move for my students and for me.”

In lieu of the class, Bachorowski allowed students to either submit a Zoom recording of them presenting or to present at a class reunion early in January. 

“Students were actually evenly split in their decision, so I’m happy that I was able to offer the choice,” Bachorowski said.

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About the Contributors
Rachael Perrotta
Rachael Perrotta, Former Editor-in-Chief
Rachael Perrotta ('24) is from Cranston, R.I., and majored in cognitive studies, political science and communication of science and technology and minored in gender and sexuality studies in Peabody College. She was also previously Senior Advisor and News Editor. If she's not pressing you for a comment, she's probably trying to convince you that she's over 5 feet tall, cheering on the Red Sox or wishing Nashville had a beach. She can be reached at [email protected].
Abby Hoelscher
Abby Hoelscher, Photography Editor
Abby Hoelscher (‘27) is from St. Louis and is an aspiring elementary teacher currently studying in Peabody College. She previously served as Deputy Photography Director. Outside of writing, she enjoys performing, learning Taylor Swift songs in American Sign Language and trying the seasonal lattes from the campus coffee shops. She can be reached at [email protected].
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