NASHVILLE, TENN. — Thousands of Middle Tennessee homeowners and business owners will spend this week — and in some cases much longer — working to recover from a weekend of widespread flooding that came as the result of two days of record-setting rainfall in Nashville.
Nashville’s tourism industry has taken a huge one-two punch: Gaylord Opryland is inundated and likely won’t reopen for months, and flooding has also shut down downtown attractions like the Wildhorse Saloon.
Damage estimates aren’t yet available, but are expected to be high thanks to the historic nature of the flooding. Building inspectors with the codes and fire departments will join property assessors today to begin making damage assessments. Inspectors from the public works and water departments will begin assessing roadways, bridges, drainage and other waterway systems.
The National Weather Service reported that Saturday and Sunday’s rainfall totals were 13.57 inches at the Nashville International Airport — more than doubling the previous two-day record rainfall of 6.68 inches set in September 1979. As of May 3, the month already was the fifth-wettest month on record for Nashville.
The Cumberland River, already above flood level, is expected to crest at 52.5 feet tonight, according to revised predictions from the National Weather Service. That’s a foot higher than original estimates from the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management. The National Weather Service expects a gradual decrease in water levels with the river falling below flood stage late Tuesday night.
Several area communities, including Franklin and Bellevue, were among the hardest hit. At least eleven Tennessee deaths have been blamed on the weekend’s storms, including six in Davidson County. During an 11 a.m. news conference, Mayor Karl Dean urged residents to avoid areas with standing water, saying that some people have been swept to their deaths after misjudging the danger.
At 6:30 p.m. Sunday, three men tied inner tubes together to “raft” on Mill Creek. Their tubes broke apart near the Mill Creek Bridge, and two of the men are now missing. Two bodies were recovered Sunday from a vehicle found upside down in standing water on Sawyer Brown Road. Joseph Formosa, 88, and Bessie Formosa, 78, attempted to drive across the flooded roadway when their vehicle was swept away.
The body of Robert Woods, 74, was recovered Monday morning near his W. Hamilton Avenue home. He was reportedly in his yard yesterday when he was swept away by flood waters. The body of Joshua Lanotroop, 21, of Valley Way, was recovered Sunday near Bell Road and Blue Hole Road. He was swept away by flood waters in the area Saturday. Andrew J. England, 78, and Martha England, 80, were found deceased Sunday evening inside their 908 Delray Drive home. They are believed to be the victims of a flash flood.
Other areas were being evacuated because of rising floodwaters. The Riverfront and First Avenue, Metro Center in North Nashville, and Opryland areas have been evacuated. As a precaution, the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management and Metro Police are helping Second Harvest Food Bank relocate their food supply from their location in MetroCenter.
First Avenue and Metro Center will remain closed until Cumberland River levels stabilize and begin to recede. Gaylord Opryland Resort suffered substantial flooding and could remain closed for months, the company said. Travel was disrupted heavily over the weekend as the water engulfed several interstates around Nashville, and many flights were canceled flying out of BNA Sunday.
The K.R. Harrington Water Treatment Plant is also flooded, and won’t be operable for several days. The tap water provided by Nashville Water remains safe, the city says, but the systems capacity has been greatly reduced. Residents of Davidson County and Brentwood are urged to use water for only drinking and food preparation.
The Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management announced Monday afternoon that it had begun sandbagging and other flood mitigation measures at the Omohundro Water Treatment Plant. The State of Tennessee is also helping put sandbags along the MetroCenter levee.
To request sandbags, businesses and residents should call the Emergency Operations Center community hotline at (615) 862-8574. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency is only distributing sandbags to emergency crews, said a TEMA spokesman. All other requests for sandbags are being coordinated through the EOC, he said.
Click here to watch a compelling video documenting the flood — between May 1 and 2, Middle Tennessee received the greatest amount of rainfall in recorded history.
Please visit nashvillebusinessjournal.com for more updates.