Massive thunderstorms over the weekend in the Southeast have caused severe flooding, killing at least 19 people in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi.
Rain came pouring down as thunderstorms rolled across the Southeast on Saturday, May 1. More than 13 inches of rain fell in Nashville over Saturday and Sunday, nearly doubling the previous record of 6.68 inches that fell in the wake of Hurricane Fredrick in 1979.
Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen called it an “unprecedented rain event,” and said Sunday, “That is an astonishing amount of rain in a 24- or 36-hour period.”
Roads have been closed, bus service suspended and all incoming and outgoing flights by Southwest Airlines at Nashville Airport have been canceled.
Around 1,500 guests of a downtown Nashville hotel complex spent Sunday night in a high school to escape the flooding of Cumberland River. The Cumberland River will continue to rise today, cresting at 52 feet (more than 11 feet above flood stage) sometime around 6 p.m., according to the National Weather Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“All of our major creeks and the Cumberland River are near flood level, if not at flood level,” Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said at a news conference Sunday. “The ground is entirely saturated, and the rain continues to fall. There’s nowhere for the water to go.”
“This is one of the most severe rain events Nashville has ever experienced,” Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said in a statement.
The rain ended today, Monday, but there will likely be weeks of cleanup. Though no official estimate has been made, it is clear that thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed by flooding and tornados. Thousands of residents were displaced with some going to more than 20 shelters opened around Tennessee.
“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.”
Emily Petro, with the Red Cross in Nashville, said the agency was sheltering about 2,000 people across Tennessee, with about 1,200 of them in Nashville.
Hospitals, schools and state buildings are flooded, and Tennessee’s roads were in bad shape. The three major interstates in the Nashville area were closed over the weekend and I-40 would likely remain closed since standing water is still stranding drivers. Bredesen said more than 150 roads were closed in middle Tennessee alone.