Gaylord CEO Gives Timeline Of Flood, Announces Re-Hiring Fair
by Mark Bellinger
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Gaylord President and CEO Colin Reed made some of the most candid comments about the May flood. He said his company ignored the advice of experts and evacuated, and that decision saved lives.
Reed spoke to a crowded Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday morning. Reed said the weekend of the flood hotel managers disregarded predictions from the experts and evacuated the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.
"The people who walked the levee, our chief engineer, head of design and construction came back and said, ‘Houston, we have a problem,'" said Reed.
Reed said that came after the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers and the National Weather Service assured hotel managers the Cumberland River would be peaking. Then it would start dropping after an adjustment was made up-stream at Old Hickory Dam.
Hotel staff walked the hallways and went room to room, but some customers didn't want to leave.
"We found one lady in a diabetic coma. We found one person hiding in a closet, because they didn't want to leave, so it was a very interesting evening," said Reed.
He says a few guests complained, but reality set in a little later at a shelter when the hotel announced the Cascades lobby where people check-in was under six feet of water.
"And you could have heard a pin drop. It was at that moment these customers realized it was indeed really, really serious," Reed added. "It was black in the whole hotel. The water started to come over the top. We lost all standby generation, and it would have been a nightmare."
Reed said the lesson learned was not to rely on information and to check it out yourself if you can. Nearly one thousand guests were safely evacuated.
"Had it not been for the folks that actually walked that levee we'd have probably still been in that hotel at 9 o'clock when we lost complete power," according to Reed.
Reed said the hotel is still on target for a November 15 grand opening. In the meantime, work continues on refurbishing about 800 rooms and building three new restaurants.
Reed said beginning this weekend Gaylord will start re-hiring some of the 1,700 people that were let go after the flood. At least 80 percent of them will be hired back.
The week-long Grand Rehiring Fair will start on Sunday and run through next Friday, August 20.