The Heat Is Online

Violent Weather Leaves 28 People Dead in Tennesee and Nearby States

Homeless feared killed in Nashville flooding

Tent city was wiped out; death toll across South now at 29

NBC News and news services, May 4, 2010

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Rescuers feared even more bodies would emerge as muddy flood waters ebb from torrential weekend rains that swamped Nashville, much of Tennessee and two neighboring states, leaving at least 29 dead.
In Nashville, police told NBC News that they managed to evacuate some from a tent city of homeless people downtown, but fear they may end up finding bodies soon.
The Cumberland River, which submerged parts of Nashville's historic downtown, began to slowly recede Tuesday after cresting Monday night. It had been swollen by flash floods in creeks that feed into it.
Residents and authorities know they'll find widespread property damage in inundated areas, but dread even more devastating discoveries.
"Those in houses that have been flooded and some of those more remote areas, do we suspect we will find more people? Probably so," Nashville Fire Chief Kim Lawson said. "We certainly hope that it's not a large number."
Power Outage

Businesses along Nashville’s riverfront lost electricity early Tuesday. Laurie Parker, a spokeswoman for Nashville Electric Service, said a main circuit failed before dawn, knocking out power to many downtown businesses, including the 33-story AT&T Building and a Hilton Hotel.
The flooding also prompted election officials to delay the city's local primary, which had been set for Tuesday.
Restaurant and bars clustered on a downtown street remained closed because of the power outage. Bar manager Susan Zoesch said the closure would be hardest on servers who rely on tips.
"We're trying to figure out what we can do for them if we're going to be shut down for a while," Zoesch said.
Andy Mason, the concierge at a high-rise building of condominiums, said he was been advising residents to leave the 330-unit building because power wasn't expected to be restored for three days.
Thousands of people fled rising water and hundreds were rescued, but bodies were recovered Monday from homes, a yard, even a wooded area outside a Nashville supermarket.
Counting the deaths
By Monday night, the rapidly rising waters were blamed in the deaths of 18 people in Tennessee alone, including 10 in Nashville.
The weekend storms also killed six people in Mississippi and four in Kentucky, including one man whose truck ran off the road and into a flooded creek. One person was killed by a tornado in western Tennessee.
In Nashville, the Cumberland also deluged some of the city's most important revenue sources: the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, whose 1,500 guests were whisked to a shelter; the adjacent Opry Mills Mall; even the Grand Ole Opry House, considered by many to be the heart of country music.
Floodwaters also edged into areas of downtown, damaging the Country Music Hall of Fame, LP Field where the Tennessee Titans play and the Bridgestone Arena, home to the NHL's Nashville Predators and one of the city's main concert venues.
Carly Horvat, 29, lives in a downtown condo and ventured out with a few friends to look at damage Monday night.
"I have never heard the city so quiet," Horvat said. "Usually, you hear whooping and hollering from Broadway."
Damage estimates range into the tens of millions of dollars. Gov. Phil Bredesen declared 52 of Tennessee's 95 counties disaster areas after finishing an aerial tour from Nashville to western Tennessee during which he saw flooding so extensive that treetops looked like islands.
Nearly 14 inches over 2 days
The severity of the storms caught everyone off guard. More than 13.5 inches of rainfall were recorded Saturday and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, making for a new two-day record that doubled the previous mark.
Dramatic rescues continued into Monday as water crept into areas that had remained safe during weekend downpours.
Authorities and volunteers in fishing boats, an amphibious tour bus and a canoe scooped up about 500 trapped vacationers at the Wyndham Resort along the river near Opryland. Rescuers had to steer through a maze of underwater hazards, including submerged cars, some with tops barely visible above floodwaters the color of milk chocolate.
Bill Crousser was riding his Jet Ski past a neighbor's house when he rescued a man, his wife and their dog moments before flames from a fire in the garage broke through the roof.
"We just got the hell out of there," Crousser said.
The water swelled most of the area's lakes, minor rivers, creeks, streams and drainage systems far beyond capacity. It flowed with such force that bridges were washed out and thousands of homes were damaged. Much of that water then drained into the Cumberland, which snakes through Nashville.
The Cumberland topped out around 6 p.m. Monday at 51.9 feet, about 12 feet above flood stage and the highest it's reached since 1937. It began to recede just in time to spare the city's only remaining water treatment plant.
Still, about 50 Nashville schools were damaged and floodwaters submerged hundreds of homes in the Bellevue suburb alone, including Lisa Blackmon's. She escaped with her dog and her car but feared she lost everything else.
"I know God doesn't give us more than we can take," said Blackmon, 45, who lost her job at a trucking company in December. "But I'm at my breaking point."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Death toll rises as river crests in Nashville

Thousands flee; flooding closes Grand Ole Opry

The Associated Press, May 4, 2010

NASHVILLE — Muddy waters poured over the banks of Nashville’s swollen Cumberland River yesterday, spilling into Music City’s historic downtown streets while rescuers using boats and jet skis plucked stranded residents away from their flooded homes. The death toll from the weekend storms climbed to 28 people in three states.

 The flash floods caused by record-breaking amounts of rain caught many off guard, forcing thousands to flee their homes and hotels frantically. The rapidly rising waters led to the deaths of 17 people in Tennessee, including 10 in Nashville, and officials feared that the toll could increase. Officials announced the latest deaths late yesterday after receding flood waters revealed six more bodies.

“Do we suspect to find more people? Probably so. We certainly hope that it’s not a large number,’’ said Metro Nashville Davidson County Fire Chief Kim Lawson.

Though the historic Ryman Auditorium, the former home of the Grand Ole Opry, and the recording studios of Music Row were not in immediate danger, parts of other top Nashville tourist spots including the Country Music Hall of Fame and The Grand Ole Opry House were flooded.
“You never think something like this will happen in Nashville,’’ said Stan Milstead of Tulsa, Okla., as he watched the dark brown river waters creep deeper into downtown.

Weekend storms dumped more than 13 inches of rain in two days in the Nashville area, leading to a quick rise of the Cumberland River and its tributaries. The swollen river crested yesterday evening at nearly 12 feet above flood stage in Nashville and was not expected to drop below its flood stage of 40 feet until tomorrow morning, National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Rose said.

About 5 miles east of downtown, flooding had forced about 1,500 guests from the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center to evacuate Sunday night to a high school, indefinitely shutting down one of the nation’s largest hotel and convention centers.

“We had just finished eating and suddenly they said: ‘Go! Go! Go!’ ’’ Gerdi Bauerle, 70, who was visiting from Munich, said yesterday. “And we said ‘Wait, we haven’t even paid.’ ’’

Up to 10 feet of water stood in parts of the hotel, as restaurant chairs and crates of wine glasses floated by. A life-sized Elvis statue missing his guitar was on its back in the nearby parking lot of the Wax Museum of the Stars.

The weekend storms also killed six people in Mississippi and four in Kentucky, including one man whose truck ran off the road and into a flooded creek. One person was also killed by a tornado in western Tennessee.

Crews worked to restore electricity to about 22,000 Tennessee customers without power yesterday evening.

© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company.


Sandbagging under way at Metro's remaining water treatment plant



Cumberland River expected to crest at 52.5 feet

The Tennessean, May 4, 2010
State and Metro efforts are under way to sandbag the MetroCenter levee, which has become a concern today as the Cumberland River water level continues to rise.
The river, which is already above flood level, is now expected to crest at 52.5 feet at 8 p.m. this evening, according to new predictions from the National Weather Service.
The levee at MetroCenter has been leaking water since the weekend, and the MetroCenter area at North Nashville has been evacuated.
Additionally, Metro has begun precautionary sandbagging efforts at the Omohundro Water Treatment Plant.
Metro officials said via a press release they are working closely with the Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service to monitor the rise in water levels from “additional flooding in Davidson County.”
The Department of Correction is evacuating more than 100 inmates from a Nashville prison due to flooding.
Several housing units at the Charles Bass Correctional Complex in West Nashville have been affected by the recent flood. Forty-six inmates have been moved to the nearby Lois M. DeBerry Special Needs Facility. Forty inmates have been transferred to the Northwest Correctional Complex in Lake County. Thirty-eight inmates are being moved to the Turney Center Industrial Prison in Hickman County.

“The flooding has affected our department as it has so many businesses and homes across Tennessee,” said Deputy Commissioner David G. Mills. “We are very proud of the efforts provided by our committed staff during this very difficult time.”

Several Nashville prisons had been without power on Sunday. Service has since been restored. No other major problems have been reported at TDOC facilities.
Metro Nashville schools will be closed again on Tuesday. No decision has been reached about make up days, but we will be in contact with the State Department of Ed. to work that situation out.
State representatives won't meet this afternoon because of flooding in downtown Nashville.

House Speaker Kent Williams said lawmakers from West Tennessee and elsewhere would have trouble getting to Legislative Plaza for the 4 p.m. session.

"With that in mind and with the current conditions in downtown Nashville in mind, I am recommending that we not try to go into session" this afternoon, Williams said in a statement.
The rain-swollen Cumberland River will continue to rise today, cresting at 52 feet sometime around 6 p.m., according to the National Weather Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Cumberland spilled over its banks Sunday night, forcing the evacuation of businesses along 1st Avenue in downtown Nashville and flooding wide stretches of land along the river banks.
Rescue workers evacuated 92 people from a south Clarksville neighborhood Monday as the city prepared for the Cumberland River to crest Tuesday afternoon.
The residential area around Kingsbury Road and Gatlin Street was emptied as the Cumberland topped 60.5 feet at noon Monday. Evacuees were taken to Hilldale Baptist Church on Madison Street, one of two emergency shelters that have been opened in Clarksville.
Interstate 40 has been reopened and traffic is no longer being routed through Franklin.
One lane of I-40 is open at Mile Marker 199 between Charlotte and US 70 south. I-40 is now open from Downtown Nashville to Mile Marker 153.
Truck traffic had been rerouted all morning through Franklin along Columbia Avenue causing miles of delays.
Columbia Avenue is backed up as far as Fairview, said Franklin Mayor John Schroer who toured the air in a helicopter on Monday morning.
“While it’s wall-to-wall traffic and semi-tractor trailer (traffic) all the way to Fairview, it’s moving," Schroer said. "It’s getting through town."

Flooding hits Tennessee, nearby US states

Reuters, May 4, 2010
NASHVILLE, Tenn., May 3 (Reuters) - A weekend deluge pushed rivers and creeks out of their banks across Tennessee and neighboring U.S. states on Monday, leaving at least 22 people dead and forcing thousands to evacuate homes and hotels.
The overflowing Cumberland River that courses through Nashville shut down bars and clubs, forced 1,500 guests out of the Opryland hotel and closed schools and businesses.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean urged residents to conserve water because one of the city's treatment plants had to be shut down after more than a foot (30 centimetres) of rain fell.
"There are lots of flooded streets and highways, and road damage," across central and western Tennessee, said Missy Marshall of Tennessee Emergency Management.
Fourteen people died in Tennessee, including one in a tornado. Two died in Kentucky and six in neighboring Mississippi, state officials said.
Some victims were found in submerged vehicles or inundated homes, while others were swept away in flooding that officials said was the worst in the area in decades.
Hundreds of residents had to be rescued, many by boat.
Several state buildings in Nashville were closed, and weakened or leaking levees led authorities to evacuate some neighborhoods.
Farther south, the fast-rising Loosahatchie River spilled out of its banks and led to evacuations in Waverly Farms, Tennessee, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal on its website.
Millington, Tennessee, was also hard hit, with 500 evacuated from two housing subdivisions, a trailer park and a nearby U.S. Navy base.
Mississippi was hit by violent spring weather for the second weekend in a row after 10 died in a powerful tornado that tore through Yazoo City.
Meanwhile, state officials made coastline preparations for oil from the Gulf spill.
"That's three disasters," said emergency management spokeswoman Nikki Presley.

At least 22 killed as Southeast floods

Thousands are forced from their homes in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi. Nashville experiences record high water.


The Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2010
Thousands of people were flooded out of their homes and businesses in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi on Monday as rivers and streams overflowed their banks, blocking major highways and leaving at least 22 people dead.

Authorities feared the death toll could rise once floodwaters recede.

In Tennessee, state rescue teams and Coast Guard crews plucked people from flooded homes and hotels. Volunteers used canoes, motor boats and jet skis to reach stranded people, and helicopters rescued some residents from rooftops of homes cut off by roiling brown waters.

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen saw treetops poking through floodwaters as he viewed the damage during a helicopter tour Monday. "I've never seen flooding like this," he said.

At least two people died in Kentucky and one in Tennessee after their vehicles were swept from flooded highways, and long-haul truckers were trapped along Interstate 40 in Tennessee. More than 300 roads were reported flooded in Kentucky alone.

Nashville had its more severe flooding in 35 years, leaving part of the city's historic downtown deserted after residents and Music City tourists were evacuated. At least 6 feet of water from the overflowing Cumberland River coursed through the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, forcing 1,500 guests to flee to a high school.

More than 13 inches inundated Nashville over two days, more than doubling the previous record of 6.68 inches that fell during Hurricane Frederic in 1979.

Nancy Fleisher, who lives just south of downtown Nashville, said heavy rains uprooted trees on the hillside behind her house Sunday, sending limbs crashing through the ceiling of her den and kitchen.

"Yesterday was the most terrifying day of my life," Fleisher said in a telephone interview Monday as she watched large gaps form in the waterlogged hillside, raising fears that the entire hillside would flow down into her home.

Emergency management officials said historic Ryman Auditorium, longtime former home of the Grand Ole Opry, was threatened but still dry by late Monday afternoon. LP Field, home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans, was also at risk.

John Dillon, who maintains a farm along the swollen South Harpeth River about 20 miles southwest of Nashville, said several neighbors were trapped in their flooded homes and had to be evacuated. He said he managed to get his two horses and 30 head of beef cattle to high ground over the weekend, and a calf was born during the deluge Saturday night.

Speaking by cellphone as he repaired fences downed by flooding, Dillon said he'd had to dump out his rain gauge — capacity 5 1/2 inches — three times. He estimated the total rainfall at 16 to 17 inches.

"We've seen a lot of flooding around here in the past, but nothing like this," said Dillon, who has lived on the farm since 1967. "It's a record-breaker."

Floodwaters were expected to begin receding overnight, according to the National Weather Service.

Even with sunny skies Monday and no more rain in the forecast until at least Thursday, it would take several days for floodwaters to fully recede, said Tracy Howieson, hydrologic services program manager for the weather service. "It takes a long time for all that water to move through the system," she said.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times,0,5224577.story