Tuesday, May 4

Flooding from Millington to Nashville devastates Tennessee; social media play key role in reporting

See May 6 Pundita post for updates on the flooding
"The levee on Big Creek was designed to contain a 100-year storm event. The rainfall that we received in Millington in the 24-hour period was much greater than a 100-year storm event."

Deaths from floods and economic toll rising; Tennessee governor sets in motion request for federal disaster aid; flooding at Navy base in Millington (north of Memphis) puts Navy promotions on hold worldwide.

News reports I quote from below were all filed today; emphasis throughout mine. Starting with some good news:

Collaboration between social media and local TV producers was a great public service and created extraordinary coverage of Tennessee floods during the early hours of the flooding.

I saw the power of cable TV news coverage greatly boosted by social media during the Iranian protests, in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, and at local TV stations here in Washington during Snowmageddon. However, the Nashville flood situation might have topped everything so far. This is a fascinating article (actually, a press release) at Earth Times about the collaboration.

Such collaborations are nothing less than a revolution in news coverage; they're transforming even small local TV stations into 'big-time' news producers. It used to be that you had to wait for the big national news organizations to fly into a disaster region with all their equipment before you could start getting comprehensive reports. The TV stations' increasingly skillful use of contributions from social media has changed the picture; that's very evident from the Earth Times article. Increasingly, local stations are learning how to maximize social media contributions.

The need for timely reporting in disaster areas, which can be hard for professional reporters to access in the early hours of a disaster, is also rocketing citizen journalism to new heights.

The technical aspects of the collaboration in the Nashville region (see the article) have tremendous global implications. Yesterday was World Press Freedom Day; social media will have an increasingly large impact on the quest to bring democracy to the world's rural peoples, not to mention bringing them better communication during natural disasters.

Now to the bad news.

Miami Herald
The death toll is at 28 across three states, but hope is slim that number with stand Tuesday as recovery begins in earnest following record rains that pushed the river's muddy waters into Music City's historic downtown [Nashville]. 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."

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. By Monday night, the rapidly rising waters were blamed in the deaths of 17 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 [River] 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.
Many in flooded areas of Tennessee not insured for floods; typically a quarter of flooded businesses never reopen

By Naomi Snyder • THE TENNESSEAN
Hundreds of homeowners and businesses impacted by the floods in the Nashville area are calling their insurance companies and finding they are not covered. Although mortgage companies typically require homeowners buy flood insurance in high-risk flood zones, many people outside those areas are finding out they've been flooded, too.
A few inches of water in the home can cost tens of thousands of dollars, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Businesses are equally at risk — because they have to pay for flood insurance separately from their standard policies as well.

A typical flood policy for a homeowner can cost anywhere from $200 to more than $1,000 per year on top of the costs for a regular homeowner policy.

FEMA says that one-quarter of businesses that close because of a flood never reopen, with an average flood damage cost of more than $33,000 per business.[...]
The Commercial Appeal
Flooding hit from Millington to Nashville

By Kevin McKenzie

After a helicopter tour of Jackson and Nashville on Monday, Governor Phil Bredesen landed at the Tennessee National Guard headquarters in the state capital and delivered letters requesting a federal disaster declaration for the state.

Weekend storms and record rainfall that triggered flooding raked the state from Memphis to Nashville in what Shelby County Office of Preparedness Director Bob Nations called "a very unusual event."

A declaration would trigger a wide array of federal assistance, including possible help for uninsured homeowners, said Craig Fugate, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who visited Nashville on Monday.

In Shelby County, recovery efforts focused on Millington [...]

On Saturday, 3.5 inches of rain fell at Memphis International Airport, breaking the record of 2.11 inches set in 1876, said Marlene Nickelson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Memphis.

Far more rain fell elsewhere as thunderstorms pummeled the area, with 6.56 inches recorded from Friday to Sunday at the weather service office at Agricenter International and estimates of 10 inches or more in Millington.

Swollen rivers, including the Loosahatchie, threatened roads and bridges, prompting closures countywide -- more than a dozen remained closed Monday -- and causing Tipton County Schools to close Monday with plans to reopen today.

Shelby County Engineer Michael Oakes said bridge supports are being inspected after the stress.

Even in sunshine on Monday, Shelby County authorities were looking at the rising Wolf River, which prompted Germantown officials to close a greenway. That river is forecast to crest at 5 feet above flood stage.

"We're not really expecting it to get in any homes or businesses" or flood Germantown Road, said Germantown Fire Chief Dennis Wolf. "It's crested at 28 feet (before), and it's supposed to crest at 25.5. It's not going to be as high as it has before."

The worst flooding in Millington since a storm struck on Christmas Eve 1987 was not caused by a "breach" in or failure of the Big Creek levee in Millington, said Steven Barry, emergency manager for the Memphis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Instead, Barry said the heavy rainfall inundated the canals and other tributaries running north and south through the city that drain into Big Creek, causing the flooding. Measures taken to control flooding after the 1987 event, which caused $11 million in property damage, were not at issue, he said.

A drainage ditch on the east side of the Naval Support Activity Mid-South base spilled over and caused flooding on the base, he said.

"The Navy base was in essence acting as a big retention pond," Barry said. "It actually was helping (Millington) avoid water."

Nearer U.S. 51, where the Indian Meadows subdivision and Shady Oaks mobile home park were flooded, the Big Creek levee did not overflow into the city -- the city overflowed into it, according to Barry.

While Millington City Engineer Darek Baskin agreed that levees were not breached, he said that Big Creek overflowed or "overtopped" and flooded the Navy base.

"The levee on Big Creek was designed to contain a 100-year storm event," Baskin said. "The rainfall that we received in Millington in the 24-hour period was much greater than a 100-year storm event."

Getting Help

Millington residents can call City Hall at 872-2211 during business hours or the nonemergency number for police, 872-3333, after 5 p.m.

The U-Haul Co. of Memphis is offering 30 days of free self-storage to West Tennessee flood victims, including the Millington store.

Giving help

Donations can be sent to the American Red Cross Mid-South Chapter and the Salvation Army by calling 726-1690 or online at or

Staff reporters Richard Locker, Daniel Connolly, Sherri Drake Silence and Lela Garlington contributed to this report.
The Associated Press via the Daily Times:
Millington flooding puts Navy promotions worldwide on hold

The Associated Press
Originally published: May 04. 2010 3:01AM
Last modified: May 04. 2010 1:20AM

MILLINGTON — Navy promotions around the world are on hold until a base in Millington, north of Memphis, can reopen after weekend flooding.

David Crenshaw, spokesman for the Naval Support Activity Mid-South base, said Monday that officials were still evaluating the extent of the flooding damage and it wasn’t clear when operations would resume.

The facility manages the Navy’s recruiting efforts and personnel actions, including promotions for senior enlisted and all officer ranks.

The Millington facility has a review center called “The Tank,” that gives members of the promotion board instant electronic access to personnel records and other information.

Crenshaw said it would be “unbelievably cumbersome” to try to shift the promotion board meeting elsewhere.

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