NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee Governor Bill Lee held a press conference Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. CT after surveying storm damage.
A spokesperson for the governor said Lee departed TEMA headquarters at around 1 p.m. Saturday to visit and survey storm damage in West Tennessee. On the flight, uprooted trees, damaged homes and debris were visible when flying over Dickson County.
The governor made his first stop in Tiptonville at around 2:55 p.m. where he was joined by state Rep. Rusty Grills (R-Newbern).
Governor Lee then drove to Cypress Point Resort in Tiptonville, where state senators John Stevens and Ed Jackson joined him. Lee called the decision “heartbreaking” while talking to local first responders and emergency workers.
The resort was torn up, mattresses were seen wrapped around trees and multiple vehicles wound up on their side.
Grills said a family survived the strong storm at the resort by huddling in a bathroom, wrapping themselves around the toilet as the roof and surrounding walls were ripped off. The family survived, however, a father and 12-year-old son were found dead at the resort. Officials say they were sucked into the storm.
“A little town like this relies on tourism from the lake entirely,” Lee said of Tiptonville. “So for all those places to be gone, the economic challenge for a community like this is hard to describe.”
The governor then got back in the helicopter can went to Dresden, landing just after sunset at around 4:40 p.m. As he traveled into the downtown area, an odor of natural gas was prevalent as a natural gas tank was upended. Dozens of buildings were destroyed, including the local fire department. Powerlines were down and crisscrossed the streets.
Lee described the scene as “about the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Volunteers could be seen handing out free sandwiches, burgers and hotdogs to first responders and families. Christmas decorations were seen intertwined with debris that had been thrown by the storm. Officials are still counting the total number of buildings affected.
After stopping in Dresden, the governor, his staff and press traveled back to Nashville.