May 4, 2010 in Nation/World

Deaths mount in Southern floods

Storms kill 28 in three states, threaten iconic Nashville buildings
Travis Loller And Kristin M. Hall Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

A woman walks along a flooded street past Schermerhorn Symphony Center in downtown Nashville on Monday.
(Full-size photo)

Record rains

The weather service listed Nashville’s two-day rainfall total as 13.53 inches at the city’s airport, outstripping the old record of 6.68 inches from the remnants of Hurricane Fredrick in 1979.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Muddy waters poured over the banks of Nashville’s swollen Cumberland River on Monday, spilling into Music City’s historic downtown streets while rescuers using boats and Jet Skis plucked stranded residents away from their flooded homes. The death toll from the weekend storms climbed to 28 people in three states.

The flash floods caused by record-breaking amounts of rain caught many off-guard, forcing thousands to frantically flee their homes and hotels. The rapidly rising waters led to the deaths of 17 people in Tennessee alone, including 10 in Nashville, and officials feared that the death toll could increase. Officials announced the latest deaths late Monday after receding flood waters revealed six more bodies.

“Do we suspect to find more people? Probably so. We certainly hope that it’s not a large number,” said Metro Nashville Davidson County Fire Chief Kim Lawson.

Though the historic Ryman Auditorium – the former home of the Grand Ole Opry – and the recording studios of Music Row were not in immediate danger, parts of other top Nashville tourist spots including the Country Music Hall of Fame and The Grand Ole Opry House were flooded.

Weekend storms dumped more than 13 inches of rain in two days in the Nashville area, leading to a quick rise of the Cumberland River and its tributaries. The swollen river crested Monday evening at nearly 12 feet above flood stage in Nashville and was not expected to drop below its flood stage of 40 feet until Wednesday morning, National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Rose said.

Gov. Phil Bredesen declared 52 of Tennessee’s 95 counties as disaster areas.

“I’ve never seen flooding like this,” he said.

Officials said about 50 Nashville schools were damaged. Floodwaters submerged hundreds of homes in the Bellevue suburb on Nashville’s west side, including Lisa Blackmon’s. She escaped with her dog and her car but feared she lost everything else.

“I know God doesn’t give us more than we can take,” said Blackmon, 45, who lost her job at a trucking company in December. “But I’m at my breaking point.”

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