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Thursday, May 6

Tennessee flood updates; Anderson Cooper sorry for poor CNN coverage; Army Corps of Engineers sorry for releasing dam waters into flooded Nashville

UPDATE May 8
"Pundita, the link you were unable to find to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is:
http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/
Alan Dooley
Chief, Public Affairs
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District"
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5:15 EDT UPDATE
See also my post this afternoon, U.S. mainstream media ignored what could be the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history -- the Tennessee floods
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"Corps officials said they weren't anticipating the amount of water now standing behind the dams. They thought they would get 7 inches of rain; instead, they got 13." - Nashville WSMV-TV

Pundita PSAs

* The first quarter of 2010 might be titled, "Officials said they weren't anticipating." This quarter has seen an astounding run of extreme weather and seismic events. Yet in country after country, region after region, the story attached to complications arising from the events has been the same: officials, communities, and various industries taken completely by surprise. Better reshuffle priorities and learn to better anticipate because it doesn't look to me as if Nature is in the best of moods this year.

* Nashville's mayor will give a presser update on the flood damage at 11:00 AM CDT.

* Country music stars Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Vince Gill and a host of others will take part in Nashville WSMV-TV Channel 4's "Working 4 You: Flood Relief with Vince Gill & Friends" telethon on Thursday from 7 to 10 p.m. (All proceeds will benefit The Salvation Army, The Red Cross, and The Second Harvest Food Bank.) Read about other local benefit efforts HERE.

* WSMV is chock full of reports on the floods and is a good source for breaking news on the situation.
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"According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the flood that hit Nashville was a 1,000-year flood -- an event that could be expected to happen once in every 1,000 years on average. ... 'The Corps of Engineers is doing everything in our power to minimize flood damages, but the extreme and flash nature of this event makes some damages unavoidable,' Lt. Col. Anthony Mitchell, commander of the Nashville District, said ... "
-- Knoxville News Sentinel

"Wednesday afternoon Mayor Karl Dean said losses from the devastating floods would be over $1 billion in Nashville. 'I think it’s safe to say that the damage we’re looking at will easily exceed $1 billion.' This is the first time a public official has put any dollar figure on the cost of flood damage."
-- The Tennessean

"I don't live in Nashville, so my knowledge of the flood damage isn't exactly where I want it to be. Why is that, with so many television channels devoted to the news, that all I hear up here in Chicago is an occasional "and Nashville, Tennessee is getting hit hard by flash floods"? The lack of information is almost as tragic as the flood itself. So much so, one woman even started a Facebook page called 'Hey National Media -- WHERE ARE YOU while Nashville is flooding???' And it already has more than 11,000 members. I joined because, like the others, I am pissed off that the devastation is not receiving the attention it needs. Attention that would ultimately lead to more relief. ..."
-- Alison Bonaguro, CMT Blog

Last night on his 360 show for CNN, Anderson Cooper said that Tennesseans were angry about what they perceived as the slow response in Washington to catastrophic flooding in the state, and major media giving it little coverage.

Anderson apologized for CNN, saying that it was true the cable station hadn't given the disaster the attention it merited. He added that while it wasn't an excuse, last week the news media had been taken up with the BP oil spill and the Times Square bomb stories. He also said that he was heading for Nashville this morning to report live from there on the flooding.

Anderson spoke with Nashville's mayor, who said that the entire city had been flooded; the footage that 360 showed brought home just how bad the flooding is. As of yesterday, reportedly much of Nashville was still under an evacuation watch.

Anderson's interview with Country Music star Kenny Chesney featured Kenny's video shots of his home, which is underwater; this also helped bring home the scope of the disaster. Kenny said he'd see these kinds of situations happening in other countries but never thought it would happen in Nashville.

I'd guess the reason for Washington's slow response is that FEMA has to do on-site inspection for every region that requests federal disaster assistance. That can be a laborious process. In this case, on Monday Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen requested a federal disaster declaration be extended to all 52 counties in the state.

'Freedom Fairy' told me the other night that very little has been heard from Craig Fugate, "the best FEMA director since James Lee Witt," since President Obama appointed him to the post. Fugate's experience in managing disaster responses for Florida makes him one of the best such managers in the USA. So let's hope he's given his head in dealing with the disaster in Tennessee, and is able to cut through the worst of the red tape.

There is a particular urgency for FEMA to move as fast as possible. As I noted in an earlier post many people in the flooded regions in Tennessee don't have flood insurance because the regions aren't in official flood zones. Those people have no choice but to wait for FEMA assistance.

And given that the unemployment office in Nashville is flooded, those who've lost their homes in the floods and are depending on unemployment checks for emergency funds might have to wait several days before they see even that assistance. Last night at 11:55 PM CDT The Tennessean update from The Tennesseean:
President Barack Obama has authorized a major disaster declaration for four more counties in Tennessee.

On Wednesday McNairy, Perry, Shelby and Tipton became the latest counties to have federal funding made available to individuals as a result of severe storms last weekend. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency says federal officials authorized declarations for Montgomery and Dyer Counties earlier in the day.

Declarations for Cheatham, Davidson, Hickman and Williamson counties were authorized on Tuesday.

More declarations for additional Tennessee counties are expected.
As to the Corps of Engineers story, below I'll provide the entire report from Nashville's WSMV-TV. For readers who are wondering whether the Tennessee Valley Authority is also involved in the situation, see the Knoxville Sentinel report I linked to above for details but in short:
TVA is playing a secondary role in controlling the flooding in Nashville and Middle Tennessee. There are several dams on the Cumberland River, but none of them belong to TVA. They are operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, which has been providing updates on the flood through the website for its Nashville District.
Frankly, I don't see where those updates are on the Corps website or how to access the Nashville section. But moving right along here's a report from WSMV-TV about the Corps and Nashville's floods.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Flood victims are wondering why the Army Corps of Engineers decided to release water through a dam during the worst of the flooding.

"I would just like to know what went on," said Tim Garrett, who lives where the Stones River meets the Cumberland River.

He said after the rain ended early Sunday night, he hadn't experienced flooding.

"We basically thought we were out of the woods, so to speak," said Garrett.

But then the waters at his apartment started rising.

The Army Corps of Engineers believes water released from the Old Hickory Dam just up the Cumberland River caused Garrett's apartment to flood.

"We had to make some tough calls," said Lt. Col. Anthony Mitchell.

Sunday night, with the water reaching 7 inches from flooding Old Hickory Dam, the Corps decided to start releasing water, knowing it would head downstream toward Nashville.

"We empathize with anyone who has lost anything by any means, but I want to reassure that the Corps is doing everything it can to try and mitigate to prevent those things," said Mitchell.

Corps officials said they weren't anticipating the amount of water now standing behind the dams. They thought they would get 7 inches of rain; instead, they got 13.

The Corps said the loss of Old Hickory Dam would have resulted in an additional 4 feet of water in downtown Nashville.

Garrett said he understands.

"No. 1 is public safety, and if we got flooded some, so be it," he said.

The Cheatham Dam is under water now, and the Army Corps of Engineers said it will be damaged.

But they said it's designed to be under water if need be and that the dam's true purpose is not flood control but rather help in the navigation of boats.
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Comradess Uppity has crossposted this entry at her Uppity Woman blog and added pix and wonderfully biting commentary
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