The weekend forecast for Nashville, Tennessee, called for two to four inches of rain. But by the afternoon of Saturday, May 1, 2010, parts of the city had seen more than six inches, and the rain was still coming down in sheets.
“We’ve got a building running into cars,” the TV anchorman was saying.
Dean had been in the “war room” for hours. But when he saw the building floating down the highway, he says, “it became very clear to me what an extreme situation we had on our hands.” Soon 911 calls were coming in from every part of the city. Police, fire, and rescue teams were dispatched in boats. One crew in a skiff headed out to I-24 to pluck the driver of an 18-wheeler from the chest-high water. Other teams pulled families off rooftops and workers from flooded warehouses. Still, 11 people died in the city that weekend.
This was a new kind of storm for Nashville. “It came down harder than I’ve ever seen it rain here,” says Brad Paisley, the country singer, who owns a farm outside town. “You know how when you’re in a mall and it’s coming down in sheets, and you think, I’ll give it five minutes, and when it lets up I’ll run to my car? Well, imagine that it didn’t let up until the next day.”
Over at NewsChannel 5, the local CBS station, meteorologist Charlie Neese could see where the weather was coming from. The jet stream had gotten stuck over the city, and one thunderstorm after another was sucking up warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico, rumbling hundreds of miles northeast, and dumping the water on Nashville. While Neese and his colleagues were broadcasting from a second-floor studio, the first-floor newsroom was being swamped by backed-up sewers. “Water was shooting up through the toilets,” Neese says.
The Cumberland River, which winds through the heart of Nashville, started rising Saturday morning. At Ingram Barge Company, David Edgin, a former towboat captain, had more than seven boats and 70 barges out on the waterway. As the rain continued to pound down, he called the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to get its forecast of how high the river would rise. “It’s blowing up our models,” the duty officer said. “We’ve never seen anything like this.” Edgin ordered all of Ingram’s boats to tie up at safe locations along the riverbank. It turned out to be a smart move.
By Saturday night the Cumberland had risen at least 15 feet, to 35 feet, and the corps was predicting it would crest at 42. But the rain didn’t stop Sunday, and the river didn’t crest until Monday—at 52 feet, 12 feet above flood stage. Spilling into downtown streets, the flood caused some two billion dollars in damage. More
When one starts to look at the bigger picture of extreme weather around the world you quickly realize that something is ot right. Climate change anyone? Editor