ICYMI: March roars in with deadly tornado swarm around Nashville, California sets an unwanted record and DC sees early signs of spring

ICYMI: March roars in with deadly tornado swarm around Nashville, California sets an unwanted record and DC sees early signs of springAs several states across the country geared up for Super Tuesday, residents in parts of Tennessee were bracing for severe thunderstorms that ending up producing devastating tornadoes and claiming dozens of lives. One survivor of the outbreak says AccuWeather's app may have helped save him. Meanwhile, lack of rain in California could mean a devastating - and early -wildfire season. Here's a look at the biggest weather news of the past week. Over 20 killed in Tennessee twister outbreakFamilies in severe weather-ravaged parts of Tennessee continue the daunting process of piecing together what's left of their homes, neighborhoods and lives after enduring a terrifying blitz of hail, damaging winds and the Nashville area's first violent tornado in just over a decade. The National Weather Service (NWS) office in Nashville reported that an EF4 twister struck Putnam County with winds of 175 mph before daybreak on Tuesday.Survivors of the devastation are mourning the loss of at least 24 people who perished as they search for those still unaccounted for following the tornado outbreak, which prompted a state of emergency declaration for Tennessee. Tens of thousands were without power for much of the week. Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter reportedly called the tornado that hit his area the largest natural disaster in the county's modern recorded history. Moore, Oklahoma's EF5 tornado in May 20, 2013, was the last time a tornado claimed as many lives; 24 people died in that twister.One of the tornadoes traveled 50.25 miles across Davidson, Wilson and Smith counties, NWS survey teams found, with Wilson and Davidson counties likely experiencing at least EF3-strength winds and damage. EF2 tornado damage was also reported in the area of Germantown/North Nashville, while surveyors discovered EF3 damage in East Nashville/Five Points, Donelson and Mt. Juliet - all possibly from the same tornado. The site of a destroyed home in Putnam County, Tennessee. (Photo/ Bill Wadell/AccuWeather) "Nashville is hurting, and our community has been devastated," Nashville Mayor John Cooper said on Twitter. "My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones. Be sure to lend a helping hand to a neighbor in need, and let's come together as a community once more. Together, we will get through this and come out stronger."Drone footage captured the incredible scene of destruction from above in the aftermath of the tornadoes. Vehicles were left crumpled and tossed on top of each other while entire buildings were left in shambles as debris scattered all over the place.AccuWeather predicts that the total damage from the Tennessee tornadoes will approach $2 billion.Tornado survivor says AccuWeather app notification helped save his life James Duncan, a 27-year-old man living in Germantown, Tennessee, said just before a deadly tornado approached the area late Monday night, a smartphone notification from AccuWeather helped save the lives of him and his girlfriend. Duncan, a former lifeguard, told AccuWeather the twister he survived this week was his first tornado experience. "It was chaos," he said. "It felt like we were in a bad dream."After they received the crucial alert, they rushed to seek shelter in their apartment's bathroom. "We could hear objects slamming against the building," Duncan recalled as winds started picking up, describing the terrifying noise the way many tornado survivors do - he said it sounded like a train. "It was terrifying." James Duncan's view of the tornado damage from Germantown in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday night. (Twitter photo/@iamRVPTOR) After the worst had passed, the pair emerged from their safe spot to survey the damage from their fourth-floor balcony. That's when they caught a whiff of the smell of gas. The twister had caused a leak, and Duncan and his partner were soon evacuated by first responders."We grabbed what was necessary and bailed," he said. "Downed power lines were everywhere, and first responders blocked off most of the streets. We had to walk roughly a mile through the debris and wreckage till we could get to a zone where a friend could pick us up to take us somewhere to stay."After surviving the harrowing ordeal, Duncan said he and his girlfriend were some of the "lucky ones."NashvilleStrong: How you can help after devastating Tennessee tornadoesMeanwhile, as survivors like Duncan continue trying to get their lives back to normal, people all across the country are showing support for the victims of the destructive Tennessee tornado outbreak. As heartbreaking images of the aftermath flooded social media and news outlets, groups and organizations jumped into action to help in the rescue and recovery process. Nashville Mayor John Cooper meets with victims impacted by the deadly tornadoes that tore through dozens of buildings in the city. (Twitter photo/ @JohnCooper4Nash) On Wednesday, Nashville Mayor John Cooper tweeted that the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee had received over $350,000 in donations, with over 5,000 people having signed up to volunteer with Hands On Nashville. "Hands On Nashville is working closely with the City of Nashville and the Office of Emergency Management to ensure all of the available resources are in place to help our community in the wake of last night's destructive tornadoes throughout Davidson and surrounding counties," the organization posted on its website Tuesday.There are ways you can help, as well. If you'd like to donate money, you can do so via the Middle Tennessee Emergency Response Fund, which will help provide vital short-term and long-term funds. Food donations are also being accepted through the Second Harvest Food Bank.  To find out about more ways you can assist the survivors of the Tennessee tornadoes, click here.COVID-19: What's the latest on the coronavirus epidemic?As the coronavirus epidemic unfolds across the globe and in the United States, AccuWeather is keeping you informed of the latest updates. As of Friday, the COVID-19-related death toll in the U.S. stands at 14. Even though the World Health Organization (WHO) has avoided deeming the virus a pandemic, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said the virus does have the potential to reach that status. Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV. The spherical viral particles, colorized blue, contain cross-sections through the viral genome, seen as black dots. (CDC / Hannah A Bullock and Azaibi Tamin) As of Friday morning, Johns Hopkins University has stated that there are 98,705 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,383 deaths worldwide. The total number of people who have recovered stands at 55,497. You can keep up to date on the most recent coronavirus outbreak information on AccuWeather's live blog by clicking here.Where's the rain? 4 California cities have record-breaking dry February It was the driest February on record for California and four cities in the Golden State did not receive a drop of rain all month long. San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento and Redding broke long-standing records set back in 1953, 1964 and 1988. "On average, these places typically receive over 4 inches of rain in February, so to have no rain at all is definitely unusual," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Alyson Hoegg. She added that California's wet season is almost over, but the state still usually receives a "decent" amount of  March precipitation.CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APPSo, why such a dry February? Hoegg said it was due to the storm tracks that were "not conducive" to traveling over those particular cities.Potentially early, dangerous wildfire season leaves California in need of 'Miracle March' That precipitation-free February in parts of California may have broken records, but the trend could spell disaster for the state-and could mean the start of an early and dangerous wildfire season. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) monitored a brush fire in Norco, located about 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles, that expanded to 175 acres on Tuesday, marking California's eighth fire incident of the year.Although the state is still in its rainy season through March, many cities have seen well-below-normal precipitation amounts as of last month, including Los Angeles (94% below normal), San Francisco (86%), Sacramento (84%) and San Diego (80%). Forget about April showers - California will need a significant amount of rainfall a month sooner than that in order to lessen the chances of a damaging and lengthy wildfire season."They got all the rain early in the rainy season, and since then it has been virtually nothing," said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski. "But we have seen Marches and Aprils be very productive rainfall-wise in California before, and they definitely need that rain now."Women's History Month: The hidden figure behind GPS technologyMarch marks the start of Women's History Month, and one of the remarkable trailblazers AccuWeather is highlighting is Dr. Gladys Mae West, the pioneer behind the development of the Global Positioning System (GPS). The Virginia native studied mathematics in college, and in 1956, she landed a job as a mathematician and programmer. West was "the second black woman hired at the base, and one of only four black employees." As part of her job, she helped program what was the U.S. Navy's largest computer at that time. "That was exciting because it was so fast and you could code much larger programs," West said in an interview several years ago. The results of the work she did eventually led to the creation of GPS. You can read more about West's pivotal role in the development in the still-popular technology by clicking here.D.C.'s cherry blossoms are blooming a little earlier than usual Spring is almost here, and that means it's nearly time for cherry blossom season in Washington, D.C. However, weather conditions might impact when the blossoms bloom this year. "We've had a relatively mild winter, but mild temperature days have been punctuated with a few days in a row of fairly frigid and below-average temperatures, so it's been a bit of a roller coaster this year," National Park Service (NPS) Public Affairs Specialist Mike Litterst told AccuWeather. Cherry blossoms were in full bloom in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 26, 2020. The cherry blossom festival is held toward the end of March, making these flowers about a month early. (Twitter/@StevenMayJr) The 2020 National Cherry Blossom Festival will take place from March 20 to April 12, and the expected peak bloom period falls between March 27-30. Sub-freezing temperatures could be problematic for the buds, but if the buds are at their third stage or earlier, they're typically protected against the cold."We do expect the mild weather to largely dominate the month of March," AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys said. "There could be a brief cooldown for a couple days next weekend; otherwise, temperatures will largely feel like spring."Lake-effect snow leaves houses encased in thick ice"I'm sorry, boss. I can't make it to work today - my garage is encased in ice." A number of people living on the shore of Lake Erie in Hamburg, New York, surely had to make that unusual call to their employers this week.Their homes were left looking like ice sculptures after a lake-effect snow event on Thursday, Feb. 27. The homes facing the shoreline were covered in ice up to about 3 feet thick by Friday, Feb. 28. Ice coated several houses in Hamburg, New York, on the shore of Lake Erie. (Instagram photo/@brittany_dur) "A strong westerly fetch wave and tight pressure gradient promoted both strong winds and heavy snow to fall downwind of the lakes," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rossio."The strong winds and high waves were responsible for the significant ice accretion on the homes of Hoover Beach," Rossio added.Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.