Posted by: angelnorman | May 5, 2010

Middle Tennessee. Underwater.

On May 1, 2010, the rains began to fall. We were urged to not leave our homes, to stay out of the inclement weather which had the capability to produce tornadoes. It was safest, they said, indoors, on the lowest level of the building. There were tornado watches and warnings, flash flood watches and warnings, and heavy downpours that were causing water to create little rivers and lakes throughout our yard.

At one point, the rains seemed to calm and I went out on to my porch to have a smoke. I watched my neighbors get in their truck and leave. I watched a family return home with groceries. We thought nothing of the severe weather, until we watched, in horror, the news reporting on areas in and around Nashville being underwater. LaVergne, a mere ten minutes away from my home (tops), was shut down due to flooding. Cars were not allowed in or out. I-65 in the Franklin/Cool Springs area was at a standstill, traffic cameras reported, because of the risen water.

And I could not believe my eyes as I witnessed all the cars on interstate 24 at Bell Road in Nashville being overtaken by a very flooded Mill Creek, especially when I watched one of Lighthouse Christian School’s portables being ripped away from its usual spot and carried down the interstate by the rushing water. It was so surreal. It was even worse when it basically ripped to shreds in all of the mess.

Reports began on the severity of the flood warnings via our local news channels. People were urged to not try to drive through the standing water, and you’d like to think that lots of people were wise enough to know that on their own but I assure you that some people will never be that wise. It was clear on Saturday that there would be a real issue with the midstate’s rivers come Sunday, as the rain was not expected to let up until later Sunday night/early Monday morning.

Evacuations began. The same people who listened to the warnings and decided to obey them, to not leave their homes in the middle of the chaos, were now stuck on the roof of their home or car. Images of workers in boats patrolling the city streets were prevalent on the news. Nashville and LaVergne both declared a state of emergency. It was a very uncertain time.

By Sunday, 8 people had been reported dead. Countless homes were lost. People were missing, frogs and fish and God knows what else were in people’s houses. As the storms subsided, the damage reports of downtown Nashville, which sits right on the Cumberland River, began. It was very hard to see the images of our beloved football stadium with water up to the first rows, or First Avenue completely underwater. Clarksville was flooded. Dickson was flooded. Bellevue was flooded. A large rock quarry in West Nashville was suddenly a mini-lake. The death toll was on the rise. Estimates of billions of dollars worth of damage were reported.

My friend Brooke’s parents’ home in LaVergne was so full of water that basically everything from the light switches down had to be replaced.

We had also learned on Saturday evening that Mike’s mom’s home on the Piney River, which is a tributary of the Duck River in Middle Tennessee, was flooded. They had to put things up on the counters as quickly as they could, barely escaping the rising waters by the skin of their teeth. They moved to higher ground, but they could almost bet right away that they were going to lose everything. Their home is a pre-fab home, on a slab, and it’s still intact. But the stench is awful, and there’s the worry of contamination, mold, etc. My poor mother-in-law couldn’t even get any shoes except for her flip flops because all her other pairs were wet and almost ruined.

Monday midmorning, my cousin Stephanie called. My grandparents’ home in East Nashville was flooded. Nanny and Papa had called Stephanie’s dad, my uncle Mark, to rescue them on Sunday night as waters rose up to their porch. They were safe; they were holding up well. But on Monday morning, they got in contact with a neighbor and learned that the water from the very swollen Cumberland River had indeed seeped into their home. My grandmother cried. 30+ years of memories in that home, boxes of pictures in her closets of her kids and grandkids as babies… everything potentially ruined. We still don’t know how extensive the damage is because we will not begin clean up until after this Friday, when the waters have receded enough. My dad did say though that he had to wade through chest-deep water to get inside their home. I just cannot imagine that.

I called my Papa, though, yesterday morning, and asked, “Are you awake?” It was 9 or so AM, and I was afraid to wake them since I’m sure they’re not sleeping too well. “We’re okay,” he began. “But we need your prayers.” I almost cried hearing him describe it. I wanted to rush over there right then and throw my arms around him and Nanny.

This flood, while it hasn’t received much media attention, has been devastating. Now I’m not going to even pretend that it’s the worst flood our great country has ever seen… It’s nowhere near the epic proportion of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the city of New Orleans or other places around the gulf. But I will say that this has been the worst flood Nashville has seen in YEARS. The death toll is up to 29 and counting. We were not equipped to protect ourselves against this.

The thing about flood insurance is that most of the time, you cannot buy it unless you live on a flood plain. Despite the proximity of flooded neighborhoods to various creeks, rivers, and lakes, most of the affected area is not considered a “flood plain”, therefore a lot of folks need a lot of financial help.

President Obama has agreed to some of our counties needing funding, but not all of the 50-some odd counties that have been affected. There is still so much to do. Nashville has been told to conserve water as much as possible. Neighboring counties have been donating their water supply to help the great city of Nashville overcome the shortage, but that is putting excess pressure on the surrounding counties’ supplies. Federal funding is available to affected individuals in the counties of Cheatham, Davidson, Hickman and Williamson, according to the report.

There is a gas shortage in our areas, and will continue to be for awhile until trucks can reach all the pumps. Gas prices are on the rise. The Prez is expected to sign the declaration for additional funding soon.

The Opryland Hotel, the Grand Ole Opry, and the neighboring Opry Mills mall, were overcome by the Cumberland as well. In fact, the Hotel has been closed and will be closed for months as they clean and rebuild the property. This is a huge loss of revenue for our city, as the Opryland stuff is our primary tourist attractions. It is good to hear that the hundreds of employees at the Hotel will remain on the payroll and that people will not lose their jobs.

The clean-up has been going on for days and will continue to go on for awhile. The water is contaminated, and safety is a major concern. You just can’t have everyone out their catching diseases while trying to clean up this mess. A lot of water is still standing. It has nowhere to go, you know.

All I’m hearing about from my fellow Nashvillians is how unfair it is that we’re not getting the coverage we deserve nationally. No one is going to think we need federal funding because the nation barely knows that this has happened. No one is recognizing the severity of the situation except for our local news teams and the various national news stations to whom many Middle Tennesseans have written angry letters demanding that we be noticed. And to some people out there, it may seem like we Nashvillians are whining a little; after all, things happen all the time all over the world and this may look minor to some people.

But is it minor to the families of the 29 people killed? Is it minor to 74-year old Robert Woods (Davidson county) who was swept away by flood waters on Sunday? Or the Montgomery county woman who stepped off her porch, not knowing how deep it was and possibly trying to evacuate, and got swept up by the current and drowned? Or the father and daughter whose trailer was swept up by the creek in Perry county, who drowned before they could even attempt to evacuate?

No, it’s not minor. Middle Tennessee may not look like a lot to you, but to us, it is our home. Those who have perished, those who have lost some thing or everything, are our families. There’s nothing minor about what happened here, folks.

Links for you to see/watch/read:
http://photos.newschannel5.com/thumbnails.php?album=326&page=1
http://www.wsmv.com/news/23435834/detail.html
http://www.newschannel5.com/Global/story.asp?S=12425775
http://www.cnn.com/video/?/video/ireports/2010/05/03/yv.irpt.tn.nashville.flood.cnn
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036677/vp/36927001#36927001
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036677/vp/36927001#36951429

***

The Nashville Area Red Cross is in need of financial support to continue providing relief to victims of local disaster flooding. The American Red Cross is not a government agency. All disaster assistance is free, and is funded solely by local donations. There are several ways to give:

• Visit http://www.nashvilleredcross.org and click DONATE NOW to make an online gift
• Mail a check to the Nashville Area Red Cross2201 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, TN 37203
• Call (615) 250-4300 to make a donation by phone
• Text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation on your mobile phone .

And please, please pray!

***

Update: My mother-in-law’s house has been condemned. We’re hoping to begin clean up tomorrow.

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