NASHVILLE (CN) – Virtually every tourist attraction in Music City was shuttered by flooding this week, but the courthouse opened on Wednesday. Businesses, gas stations and stores remained knee-deep in water and the Cumberland River sprawled over the city as if it belonged to her.
Water filled the Wildhorse Saloon, Schermerhorn Symphony Hall, and four avenues filled with restaurants and honky tonks. Guests from the Grand Ole Opry and Opryland Hotel were evacuated on Sunday while the Cumberland River, swollen with more than a foot of rain, flooded the historic buildings, which are expected to remain closed until July.
But the neighborhoods of Nashville residents were hit the hardest.
On Monday, when the Cumberland crested at almost 52 feet, a bicycle ride along a hill that runs parallel took a reporter past beautiful old homes of celebrities such as musician Roy Acuff and attorney and civil rights leader Lucius Burch Jr. Damages here seemed limited to waterlogged yards. But at the bottom of the hill, the homes were ravaged – some were barely visible anymore.
Unemployment is expected to rise. Damage is estimated in the hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. Many residents remain stranded in shelters. Stories of heroism help keep the city afloat.
Executives for Saint Thomas Affiliates waded through chest-high water to save nuns. Tennessee State University President Melvin Johnson climbed onto a small boat late Sunday night to save a researcher who went to the school’s farm to save goats and dogs. People risked their lives to get neighbors out of trees, and off of drowned cars.
Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both Republicans, praised President Obama for his help – a sort of miracle in itself.
While nearby dams try to deal with high water levels, it’s lack of water that remains the city’s most imminent threat. Officials are pleading with residents to cut back on water use. One of the city’s two water treatment plants remains underwater. Power remained off in sections of the city.
Last weekends thunderstorms killed at least 24 people in Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, 10 of them in the Nashville area.