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Remembering the Nashville flood 10 years later

Posted at 9:18 AM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 19:35:19-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — We've seen recent tornadoes and now we are living through a pandemic, but 10 years ago, an unprecedented weather event swamped an entire city.

We now refer to what happened as a 1,000-year flood – that means there was a .1% chance of it occurring in any given year. Karl Dean was Nashville's mayor when it started raining and just did not stop.

It was evident by Saturday afternoon we were in for a tough time.

Think about these rain totals over two days – May 1 to May 2, 2010: Nearly 20 inches fell and the Cumberland River crested at close to 52 feet.

Nothing like this had ever been seen before. There's the unforgettable video of an empty portable from Lighthouse Christian Academy swept off its foundation and floating down Interstate 24. It collided with the debris and disintegrated.

Not far from this, Alysia Williams and her two young children were stranded in the rising waters. Williams and her children survived, but many others did not.

More than 20 people died in the flooding across Tennessee that weekend, including 11 in Davidson County. Hundreds more had to be rescued.

Swift water response teams resorted to using zodiac inflatables to rescue citizens from homes in Pennington Bend. The entire neighborhood was swamped.

Just across the overflowing Cumberland River, the Opryland Hotel had to evacuate 1500 guests and employees to save them from the rising tide. At one point, the ground floor lobby was under 10 feet of water.

When the rain finally stopped, the magnitude of what happened hit home. Karl Dean had weathered tornadoes, but a flood like this was much different.

Everything was saturated and long after the storm had move on, the muck remained. But Dean says the mess did nothing to deter the thousands of volunteers, organized by Hands on Nashville, who worked tirelessly to repair and clean up the city.

Slowly, mountains of debris were diminished to just piles.

Even Garth Brooks did his part, performing six sold-out shows at Bridgestone Arena raising thousands of dollars for flood relief.

Mayor Dean said the catastrophe brought the city together. He says that it's his belief the very same spirit that carried people through tornadoes and the great flood will now make the difference as we all deal with a very different disaster – the coronavirus pandemic.