Updated at 5:40 p.m.
At least four people are dead after pounding rain flooded streams in Nashville and elsewhere in Middle Tennessee overnight.
Dozens of roads remain impassable and about 15,000 people across the state lost power. Businesses in Franklin and Lebanon were flooded, and in Nashville alone at least 130 people had to be rescued from cars and homes. That includes 15 people evacuated by boat from an apartment building that had been hit by a mudslide.
So far, police have identified only one of the victims: 65-year-old Douglas Hammond was found this morning on a golf course in Nashboro Village. Police say he likely left his car after it stalled and then fell in high water from a creek.
The other victims were a 70-year-old Nashville man whose car was submerged by the floodwater, a 46-year-old woman found inside a tent in an encampment near Seven Mile Creek and a 64-year-old man found on the ground at the same camp. Their next of kin are still being notified.
“The loss of life, once we complete the investigations, is a deeply disturbing fact. And I know that it’s going to inform us in how to do this better,” says Mayor John Cooper. “I don’t have the facts right now to understand why we lost those lives exactly. But I’m counting on our emergency departments to have a very thorough analysis and then to step back and then try to make it even better.”
Police in Murfreesboro say they also rescued at least nine people. One Nashville officer is recovering in the hospital after injuring himself during a water rescue.
But the flooding this time is not projected to approach 2010. The downtown gauge of the Cumberland River is expected to peak at 42 feet — 10 feet lower than the highest levels during the 2010 flood, according to Metro Water Service.
“We have plenty of room in the river for additional storage,” says MWS director Scott Potter.
But the Harpeth River could approach an all-time high in Franklin. The river is currently at 30 feet, or minor flood stage.
Improvements since 2010
About 7 inches of rain fell on Nashville, according to the National Weather Service. That makes this weekend the second-wettest two-day period in the city’s history, eclipsed only by the 2010 flood. The rain tally on Saturday was also the fourth-highest ever recorded in Nashville, with more than 5 1/2 inches of rain. Only the two days of the 2010 flood and the aftermath of Hurricane Frederic in 1979 were wetter.
The mayor says changes made after the historic 2010 flood improved the city’s response this time around. He says swift-water rescue teams were trained and ready to evacuate people in need and that Metro departments were more equipped to quickly share information between one another.
But Cooper says this storm, too, will be “a learning experience.” And he says the Metro government needs to be ready for once-in-a-lifetime floods to occur once in a decade.
“It’s an unexpected, uneven event. You don’t really know which creeks are going to get the most water,” he says. “We will learn from this.”
Southeastern Davidson County appears to have been hit especially hard. With the ground already saturated by spring rains earlier in the week, an apparent mudslide threatened to take down an apartment building on Linbar Drive. Two people were taken for medical treatment but no serious injuries were reported.
On social media, families in Crieve Hall posted video of torrential rains and flooded basements. On Sunday morning, they began the process of cleaning up.
Some of the scenes from Crieve Hall pic.twitter.com/h2AVMvSRbO
— Samantha Max (@samanthaellimax) March 28, 2021
— Carlos Whittaker (@loswhit) March 28, 2021
The Nashville Fire Department also had to rescue about 40 dogs from a kennel on Craighead Street in Melrose. Officials say they were taken safely to another location.
Threat hasn’t passed
Mill Creek in Antioch and several other streams reached flood stage. So although the rains have largely moved on, Nashville Fire Chief William Swann says people should continue to be cautious, even though the weather is clear today. He also says anyone who was displaced from the flooding or needs support can get help from the Office of Emergency Management.
The mayor’s office says flood victims can get help by calling 311 or by filling out an outline form at either hub.nashville.gov or nerve.nashville.gov. The NERVE website is also tracking unsafe and closed-off areas on an interactive map, which is being updated regularly.
Cooper’s office says it has also activated a team of nonprofits to check in on people living in encampments near rivers and creeks.
Photos shared by authorities in Franklin show the Harpeth is already over its banks near the downtown.
These aerial photos were taken approx. 15 min. ago by our drone operator FF/P Daniel Donegan. The top photos are Bridge St. at 1st Ave. N. The bottom photos are Hillsboro Rd. at N. Margin St. pic.twitter.com/pe0GnxtTbc
— Franklin Fire Department, Franklin, TN (@FranklinFire) March 28, 2021
Downpours are expected today in East Tennessee. Those counties are now under a flash flood warning.
The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency says that 5,200 customers still do not have power, including 1,200 in Nashville. Some parts of Henderson County are also under a boil water notice, while Lenoir City in Loudon County has no water service whatsoever.
The agency notes that the risk of flooding could return on Tuesday, when more thunderstorms are forecast.