NASHVILLE — Rescuers feared even more bodies would emerge as muddy flood waters ebb from torrential weekend rains that swamped Nashville, much of Tennessee and two neighbouring states, leaving at least 29 dead.
The Cumberland River that has submerged parts of Nashville’s historic downtown was expected to start receeding Tuesday after being swollen by flash floods in creeks that feed into it.
Residents and authorities know they’ll find widespread property damage in inundated areas, but dread even more devastating discoveries.
“Those in houses that have been flooded and some of those more remote areas, do we suspect we will find more people? Probably so,” Nashville Fire Chief Kim Lawson said.
“We certainly hope that it’s not a large number.”
The weekend storms also killed six people in Mississippi and four in Kentucky.
In Nashville, the Cumberland also deluged some of the city’s most important revenue sources: the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, whose 1,500 guests were whisked to a shelter; the adjacent Opry Mills Mall; even the Grand Ole Opry House, considered by many to be the heart of country music.
The Ryman Auditorium — the longtime former home of the Grand Ole Opry — appeared to be safe.
Damage estimates range into the tens of millions of dollars.
It was not immediately known how much damage the Hall of Fame or LP Field received.
Damage estimates range into the tens of millions of dollars. Gov. Phil Bredesen declared 52 of Tennessee’s 95 counties disaster areas after finishing an aerial tour from Nashville to western Tennessee during which he saw flooding so extensive that treetops looked like islands.
The severity of the storms caught everyone off guard. More than 343 millimeters of rainfall were recorded Saturday and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, making for a new two-day record that doubled the previous mark.
Dramatic rescues continued into Monday as water crept into areas that had remained safe during weekend downpours.
Authorities and volunteers in fishing boats, an amphibious tour bus and a canoe scooped up about 500 trapped vacationers at the Wyndham Resort along the river near Opryland. Rescuers had to steer through a maze of underwater hazards, including submerged cars, some with tops barely visible above floodwaters the colour of milk chocolate.