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Storms Kill 6 In Nashville, Evacuate Thousands From Homes

Nashville, Tennessee - The Cumberland River was expected to crest sometime Monday evening but would not begin receding until Tuesday, according to the Nashville mayor's office.

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 weekend thunderstorms killed at least 20 people in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky. At least six people were killed in Nashville.

Floodwater continued to rise Monday midday in downtown Nashville, shutting down most of lower Broadway including First and Second avenues. The Schermerhorn Symphony Center and numerous buildings downtown near the Cumberland River had lower-level flooding.

Heartland Christian Towers residents are being moved to hotels or picked up by family members. The retirement home is on Fernbrook Lane off McGavock Pike in Nashville.

Air 4 flew over a flooded home along Pennington Bend that was engulfed in flames at 10:30 a.m. The NWS advised that major flooding is expected to continue along Cumberland River Monday followed by a gradual decrease in water levels, and that homes in the area should be evacuated.

"We are still in rescue mode at this time," said Kim Lawson, deputy chief of the Nashville Fire Department, during a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

More than 7 inches of rain fell on Saturday and 13.53 inches had fallen by 8:30 p.m. Sunday, a new two-day record. Just two days into the month, this is already the wettest May in Nashville's recorded history and fifth wettest month in city history. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen called it an "unprecedented rain event."

Mayor Karl Dean's office is asking Nashville residents to conserve water. Emergency officials are in the process Sunday night to evacuate parts of MetroCenter and residents and businesses near Mainstream Drive.

The guests at Opryland Hotel Sunday were moved to McGavock High School and other hotels. Gaylord Entertainment, the owners of the hotel, confirmed that there was 6 feet of standing water inside the hotel.

German tourists Gerdi and Kurt Bauerle, both 70, said resort staff suddenly started rushing people out of the area Sunday night.

"We had just finished eating and suddenly they said: 'Go! Go! Go!"' said Gerdi Bauerle, who was visiting from Munich. "And we said 'Wait, we haven't even paid."'

Officials in Tennessee said Sunday the flooding is as bad as they've seen since 1975 when water memorably inundated the old Opryland amusement park east of downtown Nashville. Even the state's own emergency operations center wasn't immune. It took up to a foot of water below a false floor, forcing officials to relocate to an auxiliary command center.

"I've never seen it this high," said emergency official Donnie Smith, who's lived in Nashville 45 years. "I'm sure that it's rained this hard at one time, but never for this much of an extended period."

Water flooded parking lots around the nearby Grand Ole Opry House and the Opry Mills shopping mall, but it wasn't immediately clear if water had made it inside the buildings.

All rivers are at least 4 to 10 feet above flood stages.

Officials in Tennessee were preparing for more deaths and for the Cumberland River, which winds through the Music City, to crest more than 11 feet Monday afternoon, putting portions of downtown in danger of the kind of damage experienced by thousands of residents whose homes were swamped by flash floods.

The Cumberland River had already reached record levels since an early 1960s flood control project was put in place. With so much water inundating the Cumberland's tributaries, however, it was difficult to gauge whether the river would stop at 50 feet or exceed the forecast, increasing the water's spread in the city.

Authorities weren't taking any chances. They evacuated the downtown area and north Nashville where a leaky levee threatened residents and businesses. Flooding could hit the downtown tourism industry, a commuter train depot and the nearby LP Field, where the Tennessee Titans play.

Floodwater spilled onto a couple of downtown streets near the riverfront and restaurants and bars in the tourist district were closed.

At the Opryland Hotel, Monday morning brought sunshine and a view of flooded parking lots around the hotel and adjacent venues. Water surrounded the Grand Ole Opry House and the Opry Mills shopping mall.

Dean called on Nashville residents Monday to use water only for cooking and drinking because one of the city's two water treatment plants was flooded.

"That is an astonishing amount of rain in a 24- or 36-hour period," Bredesen said Sunday.

At least 12 were dead in Tennessee, six in Mississippi and two in Kentucky.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency officials said there was likely an additional victim, but a body had not been recovered. Three people in Mississippi were killed when high winds believed to be tornadoes hit their homes and three others were killed in what authorities said were weather-related traffic accidents.

In Montgomery County, 71 people had been rescued as of 11:30 a.m. Monday. The two neighborhoods that have seen worst damage are North Woodstock and Kingsbury Drive. Those residents are headed to a shelter at Hilldale Baptist Church on Madison Street.

County spokeswoman Elizabeth Black said the water supply is fine but that the county is asking people to limit water use. She also said there's no imminent concern about the Cheatham Dam, which has been releasing water this weekend because of overflowing.

Hickman County Sheriff Randal Ward said there have been more than 200 rescues Monday. Most of the county still has no cell service, power or water. The western part of county, such as the Pleasantville area, was hit the worst, Ward said. The Duck River Bridge in Centerville is still blocked off.

Hickman County is asking its residents to boil water before using it because its water system is shut down and the water could be contaminated. The county is working to get money from Tennessee Emergency Management Agency for its shelters at Fairfield Church of Christ, Centerville Christ and Bon Aqua United Methodist.

The Trousdale County Jail was evacuated, and people from that jail headed to Wilson County.

Kentucky Emergency Management officials said two deaths in Barren and Madison counties in central Kentucky were weather-related.

The weekend deaths came on the heels of a tornado in Arkansas that killed a woman and injured about two dozen people Friday. And just a week ago, 10 people were killed by a tornado from a separate storm in western Mississippi.

Bredesen said officials hoped for the best, but knew there might be more deaths reported Monday as authorities got their first real look at the damage after a weekend filled with frantic rescues.

"This is going to go on for a while," Bredesen said. "It's going to take a while for the water to recede and us to get down into this. It's going to take several days for this to get back to anything near normal."

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 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 for residents and public works employees alike. Though there was no official estimate, it was clear thousands of homes had been damaged or destroyed by flooding and tornadoes. Thousands of residents were displaced with some going to more than 20 shelters opened around Tennessee.

Emily Petro, of the Red Cross in Nashville, said the agency was sheltering about 2,000 people across Tennessee -- about 1,200 of them in Nashville.

The Red Cross has asked for people to donate nonperishable items.

Hospitals, schools and state buildings also were flooded. Most schools in middle Tennessee would be closed Monday and most universities in the Nashville area postponed final exams, though many state workers were expected to return to their jobs, if possible.

The state's roads were in bad shape. The three major interstates in the Nashville area were closed over the weekend and Interstate 40, which runs east to west through the state, would likely remain closed since standing water is still stranding drivers.

Bredesen said more than 150 roads were closed in middle Tennessee alone with washouts and bridge damage destruction fairly common.

The Cumberland could add millions of dollars to the damage total.

"I've never seen it this high," said emergency official Donnie Smith, who's lived in Nashville 45 years. "I'm sure that it's rained this hard at one time, but never for this much of an extended period."

Below are the confirmed deaths that have occurred over the last two days in the following counties:
  • Davidson County - 6 water deaths, 2 missing

    Robert Woods, 74, was reportedly swept away Sunday by floodwater in his West Hamilton Avenue yard. His body was recovered Monday.

    Joshua Lanotroop, 21, was swept away by floodwater Saturday in the area near Bell Road and Blue Hole Road. His body was recovered Sunday near the area.

    Andrew J. England, 78, and Martha England, 80, are believed to be victims of a flash flood. Their bodies were found Sunday in their Delray Drive home.

    Joseph Formosa, 88, and Bessie Formosa, 78, tried to drive across the flooded Sawyer Brown Road when their vehicle was swept away. Their bodies were found inside their flipped vehicle in standing water.

    Two men are missing after three men tied inner tubes together to raft on Mill Creek. The inner tubes separated near the Mill Creek Bridge. A 19-year-old was able to swim ashore, but the other two men are missing.
  • Williamson County - 1 water death
  • Stewart County - 2 water deaths
  • Carroll County - 2 water deaths, 1 missing
  • Hickman County - 1 water death
  • Perry County - 2 water deaths, father and daughter
  • Hardeman County - 1 tornado death
Residents Rescued Sunday Night

Lakeshore The Meadows nursing home residents were rescued Sunday evening along Coley Davis Road in west Nashville.

Six-hundred people had to be rescued from flood waters this weekend in Nashville.

Judge Mark Fisburn said state courts -- consisting of chancery, circuit and criminal courts -- will be closed Monday.

Both Lipscomb University and the Bellevue Jewish Community Center were opened to shelter flood victims but were soon at capacity.

Bellevue Middle School opened to shelter victims, but they needed more cots, blankets and pillows. People slept in auditorium seats Sunday night.

"We ended up having to go upstairs, probably got about 5 feet of water, 4 feet of water in the house," said a man who was rescued Sunday afternoon by boat from his Bellevue home, where he's lived for seven years. "And we were upstairs with seven grandchildren, took all our food up there, had lunch, played cards, read books and then came out that same window."

Mount Pleasant, Tenn., city manager Debbie McMullin said a water main broke somewhere in the city Sunday afternoon. Officials started looking for the problem at 4 p.m. and were unable to locate it. Residents are urged to boil water until future notice and conserve.

About 12 to 15 inches of rain fell in Rutherford County over two days.

LaVergne Mayor Ronnie Erwin took a Sunday morning tour of the most troublesome areas in the city. Several streets remain closed.

"There are a lot of other areas in bad shape, and we're trying to get people help quickly," said Erwin, who declared the city a disaster area.

LaVergne resident James Hathcock saw water rushing toward his house and made a run for it.

"I had five grandkids here, and all of a sudden, it started coming up high, and I got all the kids, got in the car and got out of here," he said.

A woman in Bellevue went into labor but couldn't get out of her home, so a nearby nurse made her way through the water to get to the woman and safely deliver the baby.

Amy Hubbuch, a child birth educator, helped deliver the girl. Baby Claire and the mother, who was due, are doing well.

"It was a house call. We haven't done those in a long time," said Hubbuch, who delivered the baby by flashlight since there was no electricity.

Twenty-five thousand Nashville Electric Service customers were still without power at 6:45 p.m. Sunday.

Click here for a full list of road closures in Nashville.

Dean said Nashville has received the most rain Saturday and Sunday since rain amounts have been recorded.

During his flood briefing Sunday afternoon, he also said that Frederick Douglass Head Start Center on North 7th Street in Nashville was submerged in water up to its roof.

Police Chief Ronal Serpas said that two police officers had to be rescued Saturday from a tree. A Belle Meade police officer was swept away in his patrol car at Harding Road and Lynnwood Boulevard Sunday, but he was rescued.

Multiple major water line breaks Sunday in Brentwood have eliminated all water service to a large area in the southern part of the city. Neighborhoods that were affected included: Brenthaven, Mooreland Estates, Willowick, Brentwood South and Stonehenge subdivisions. Click here to read more of this story.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority has suspended all bus service indefinitely because of flooding at its headquarters facility.

All barge traffic was closed on the Cumberland River because the CSX drawbridge couldn't function.

On Sunday, Dickson, Tenn., Emergency Management Agency said that Interstate 40 was shut down near mile marker 180 (Dickson/Fairview exit). A tractor-trailer overturned and the trucker was trapped, but he was rescued.

The Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency reports that as of 6 p.m. Sunday, emergency responders had rescued 38 people from homes and vehicles. There were an estimated 18 homes damaged, three culverts washed out and 108 roads under water. More damage to homes may be reported as water recedes.

Emergency officials evacuated some flooded apartments along Murfreesboro Road near Mill Creek in southeast Nashville, forcing 300 residents out. However, many of those residents were refusing to leave their apartments.

Bellevue neighborhoods near Beech Bend Drive and Foot Path Terrace and Bellevue Manor Road near Harpeth Valley Road were engulfed with water Sunday morning.

Authorities in Nashville advised everyone to stay home unless traveling was an absolute necessity.

Click here to find the emergency shelters opened by the American Red Cross in middle Tennessee.

Flooding Closes I-24 In Antioch

Interstate 24 was closed at Bell Road Saturday night because of a massive amount of flooding on the roadway, killing one person.

About 70 cars on the interstate were submerged by the floodwaters. A portable school room from nearby Lighthouse Christian school floated down I-24 and was destroyed.

Two other people were killed in Stewart County from the flooding. One of the deaths was identified as Steve Zywicki, who died trying to save a woman from a flooded tributary of Hurricane Creek.

Another person died in Williamson County and a fifth in Carroll County. The death in Williamson County occurred along Garrison Road, but the circumstances were unclear Saturday night.

Nashville's Office of Emergency Management called for a partial activation of the Emergency Operations Center because of the severe weather.

Segments of Interstate 40 were closed between Nashville and Memphis. Pooling water in the median and along the sides of the highway gave some sections the appearance of a causeway.

Several roads were closed, and several people had to be rescued or evacuated from homes in just about every county in middle Tennessee on Saturday.

Historic Flooding Hits Region

As of 6 p.m. Saturday, 5.93 inches of rain had fallen in Nashville, which was the second greatest rainfall for one day in the city. The record rainfall total for one day in Nashville is 6.60 inches, which fell on Sept. 13, 1979.

The National Weather Service said up to 12 inches of rain had fallen along areas of Interstate 40 since midnight.

Davidson County residents/motorists were urged to stay off the roadways due to potential flooding, especially secondary roadways.

Franklin police closed several roads around Cool Springs Galleria mall. Interstate 65 was closed was for a period of time just before Moores Lane in Franklin. Police reported floodwater reached the entrances of several homes and businesses. Police advised residents to stay home and to not get out unless absolutely necessary.

Jeremy Heidt with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said the state's swift water action team was called to Williamson County to rescue a number of people from their homes due to rising floodwater.