Monday, May 3

Massive storm flooding spreads across southern U.S. states; levee breach adds to flooding in Nashville

See May 6 Pundita post for updates on the flooding.
See May 5 post for updates.

Although I quote extensively from an AP report on Nasville's flooding, I'm posting just a few paragraphs from news reports about disasters in other southern states; check the websites I link to for more extensive information.


Associated Press, approx. 6:00 PM, EDT:
Nashville braces for more flooding as river swells

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville braced for more deaths Monday as the flooded Cumberland River continued to swell, sending muddy water rushing through neighborhoods and into parts of the historic heart of Music City after a destructive line of weekend storms killed 22 people in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky.

The flash floods caught the city off-guard, and thousands of residents and tourists were forced to flee homes and hotels as the river rapidly spilled over its banks. Using motor boats, jet skis and canoes, authorities and volunteers rescued residents trapped in flooded homes on Monday, some which looked like islands surround by dark brown river water. Eleven of the 12 people killed in Tennessee drowned, including six in Nashville.

Country music's landmark, The Grand Ole Opry House, was flooded with several feet of water, forcing managers to seek alternate space for upcoming shows. It wasn't clear how much water was in the concert hall, which is part of the large Gaylord Opryland Hotel complex along the river northeast of downtown, but at least 10 feet of water flooded the nearby hotel.

The downtown — home of a historic warehouse district that dates back to the 1800s and is now occupied by bars and restaurants — was nearly deserted after authorities evacuated the area. Floodwater spilled into some streets near the riverfront, and restaurants and bars in the warehouse district were closed.

Water seeped into a mechanical room in the basement of the Country Music Hall of Fame, though it was not immediately clear if there was any damage. Two blocks away, the historic Ryman Auditorium, longtime former home of the Grand Ole Opry, was in no immediate danger nor were many of the country music recording studios, located about a mile west of downtown.

On the east side of the river at LP Field, where the Tennessee Titans play, water covered the field and surrounding parking lot.

"It's shocking to see it this way, but it was an incredible storm," Mayor Karl Dean said as he surveyed the downtown flooding. The Cumberland River was expected to crest Monday afternoon at more than 11 feet above flood stage, and officials worried they may find more bodies in the rising floodwaters.
Floodwaters swallowed up hundreds of homes including 45-year-old Lisa Blackmon's in the suburb of Bellevue on the west side of Nashville. Water was up to her knees inside her house when a neighbor rushed her out Sunday. Blackmon said she feared she had nothing left in her home. She said she had no flood insurance and lost her job at a trucking company last December.

"I know God doesn't give us more than we can take," she said. "But I'm at my breaking point."

The Cumberland flooded quickly after the weekend's storms dumped more than 13 inches of rain in Nashville over two days. That nearly doubled the previous record of 6.68 inches of rain that fell in the wake of Hurricane Fredrick in 1979.

The storms, which also spawned deadly tornadoes, killed at least 12 people in Tennessee — including one person killed by a tornado in the western part of the state — six in Mississippi and four in Kentucky.

Three of the people killed in Mississippi died when high winds believed to be tornados hit their homes; the other three were killed in weather-related traffic accidents. Four weather-related deaths were also reported in Kentucky, including one man whose truck ran off the road and into a flooded creek.

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen got a bird's eye view of the flooding damage during a helicopter tour of the area on Monday. As he crossed the Tennessee River and neared the hard-hit area of Madison County, flood waters were so deep that the tops of trees made the land looked like islands.

The Cumberland River already reached record levels since an early 1960s flood control project was put in place. With so much water inundating its tributaries, it was difficult to gauge whether the river would stop at 50 feet deep, or 11 feet above flood stage.

Much of the damage from flooding was done in outlying areas of Nashville and across the middle and western parts of Tennessee. Rescues turned dramatic over the weekend with homeowners plucked off roofs and pregnant women airlifted off a waterlogged interstate.

The rain ended Monday but there will likely be weeks of cleanup. Though there was no official estimate, it was clear thousands of homes had been damaged or destroyed by flooding and tornados. Emily Petro, with the Red Cross in Nashville, said the agency was sheltering about 2,000 people across Tennessee — more than half in Nashville.[...]
New York Times, May 3 (no time stamp)
[...] Officials in Tennessee were bracing for more [flooding] as the Cumberland continued to rise, reaching 50 feet, a level not seen since the 1960s, before a system of flood-control dams was built.
Nashville authorities were particularly concerned about a leaking levee that allowed floodwater to spill onto some streets in north Nashville. Flooding also closed First Avenue near the riverfront, and officials feared that it could reach a commuter railroad depot [...]

There was so much going on that I missed the news about tornadoes and flash floods that hit Arkansas on April 30, but I present it here as part of the news about the rain and tornado devastation that hit a wide swath of the southland since the end of last week.

The Daily Inquirer, May 1:
Central Arkansas was hit by tornadoes late Friday. At least three people got killed and twenty-five others were injured, according to authorities. KARK, an affiliate of NBC, reported warnings of flash floods across the state, as the rainfall rates in the area increase to about more than four inches an hour.[...]

Examiner, 12:28 PM:
Deadly storms and massive flooding in the mid-south section of the country, from Arkansas, across Tennessee, and into Kentucky are taking their toll on everyone. From closed roads to swift water rescues to death by electrocution, this round of spring weather is some of the worse on record. Nashville, Tennessee has already recorded a month of May record rain fall in just two days.

Kentucky State Parks are also affected with the hardest hit park in the system being Fort Boonesborough State Park in Madison County near Richmond. [...]

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3:08 PM
Rain causes flooding in and around Atlanta

Metro Atlanta apparently will be spared a repeat of Monday's messy morning rush hour as most of the heavy rains have moved out of the area prior to this afternoon's commute.

Earlier in the day, rain across metro Atlanta flooded buildings, caused delays at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and generally made a mess of the morning traffic.

At 3 p.m., most of metro Atlanta was free of rain, with the exception being suburban counties to the south and east.

The northern half of Georgia, including all of metro Atlanta, remains under a flash flood watch by the National Weather Service until early Tuesday, with forecasters predicting 2 to 4 inches of rain. Rainfall totals across much of metro Atlanta had already topped 2 inches by 8 a.m.
Flash flood warnings were also posted before daybreak for Cobb, Douglas and Carroll counties, where the Weather Service said flood waters were "developing rapidly" on Sweetwater and Nickajack creeks. Both creeks had reached flood stage of 10 feet at 8 a.m., and were expected to rise another foot before receding Monday afternoon.

The heavy rain that began moving in from the west around 3 a.m. was punctuated by vivid lightning as strong thunderstorms began "training," or following one another from the southwest to the northeast. [...]

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