Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Waters Rose...and Rose...and

By Chester Campbell

The recent flooding in my hometown of Nashville offers lots of angles for mystery plotting. Rising water from thirteen inches of rain came so swiftly that many people were not able to get out and had to be rescued by boat. A few didn't make it. Hundreds of people lost most or all of their belongings. Fortunately it didn't happen, but in all the upheaval, a homicide could easily have been missed.

After the water receded, hundreds of homes were left with major damage, some beyond repair. As residents began the cleanup, with help from thousands of volunteers, destroyed furniture, appliances, clothing, and everything imaginable were piled along the streets. Ruined carpets and floors, sections of drywall, doors warped by the water, and tons of pink insulation were hauled out into yards.

Those with upstairs rooms spared from flooding managed to salvage a lot of personal items, but these were left unprotected with doors gone and windows left open to help dry out the houses. A few cases of looting were reported but no major outbreaks. The Metro Police moved into the effected areas  in force to deter would-be thieves.

Nashville has been congratulated by visiting officials for the way its citizens reacted in reaching out in large numbers to help those in need. Tents were set up to provide food and water for workers involved in the effort to clean out homes and begin repairs. When my wife and I visited a granddaughter to pick up her small boys to babysit them, there was a parade of women along the street offering drinks and sandwiches for lunch.

Three large areas in separate parts of the county were badly flooded. Much of the damage occurred away from rivers or large streams, outside flood plains, where people never saw the need to buy flood insurance. They will likely receive only small sums from FEMA. Those unable to get loans and without funds to make repairs will lose their homes. Many small businesses will never reopen, costing more jobs.

For several days, the TV stations devoted their entire schedule to covering the flood. Miles of streets with water up to the windows or almost covering roofs were shown from the view of news helicopters. The Cumberland River rose far above flood stage, inundating parts of downtown, flooding numerous businesses and large buildings. The Symphony Center and Country Music Hall of Fame were among the victims. The Titans' stadium became a massive swimming pool.

The massive Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center was flooded, taking its 2881 rooms out of operation for at least six months. It forced the almost 85-year-old Grand Ole Opry radio show to move to various locations to stay on the air. Nashville's largest shopping center next door, Opry Mills Mall, also had to be shut down.

Nashville is still doing fine, thank you, but for many the recovery is going to be long and painful. One of two pumping stations that provide drinking water for the area was shut down, requiring heavy conservation efforts. But in most areas life goes on as usual.

With a fair-sized group of mystery writers making their home here, don't be surprised to find a flooding novel making its appearance before long. For the moment, though, it's a little too painful to contemplate.


Kaye Barley said...

Chester, thanks for posting this; as painful as it must have been. It's hard for those of us who have never been through anything like this to comprehend.

You've been on my mind, and I'm glad you and your loved ones are O.K.

take care,

Theresa de Valence said...

Glad you're OK, Chester!

Mark W. Danielson said...

Floods of this nature are hard to comprehend. I have other friends in the Nashville area whom I have yet to hear from. Let's hope this is a 100 year flood, although the weather is crazy this year. We're getting more snow tonight in Denver and the trees are just now getting their leaves. Smile when you can, and be thankful for whatever you have.

Chester Campbell said...

We're doing fine, Kaye. Kept the little ones (one 2, one 3 months) a few days last week. Young people are resilient, though, and they're recovering.

Thanks, Theresa. We live on a hillside. If the water gets to us, it's time to board the ark.

Mark, they said this was probably a 1000-year flood. It has changed the perspective of a lot of people who live in low-lying areas.

Ben Small said...

Many of the residences will no doubt have to be torn down, due to mold. I remember talking to people in Southern Indiana two years ago who were forced out of their homes and couldn't go back because of this problem. The sadness lingers.

Was Vanderbilt spared? I've got a niece there.

Chester Campbell said...

As far as I know, Ben, there was no damage around Vanderbilt.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I'm so glad to hear that you and your family are all right. Also, Beth, I hope. Mark's right about the crazy weather this year. Pat's town just suffered a tornado and we're socked in with snow, damaging high winds and fog. This is a spring we'll all remember.

Beth Terrell said...

Thanks, Jean. Yes, my husband and I were lucky to have only a tiny leak in the basement. Several friends and many people I work with weren't so lucky.

I couldn't believe there were several people who drowned on Interstate 40, and others who couldn't make it out of their homes before the waters rose. Like Chester said, the way people have reached out to help each other has been inspiring.

Anonymous said...

The Nashville flooding just beggars belief. Chester, glad to hear you and Beth are okay. Do you have news of any other Nashville writers? How about the Killer Nashville conference?

Oklahoma lucked out today, with some foul weather and a tornado watch in the western half of the state, but the threat seems to have moved on. Of course, there's always tomorrow ....

Good luck and stay safe,

Pat Browning

Ben Small said...

So glad my friends in Nashville are safe. I feel Beth's pain. I once had water pouring into my basement when I lived in Indy. Took us forever to clean that mess up.

I was in Terre Haute two years ago during their great flood. I'd never been scared of water before, but the water levels kept rising and there was no place to go, because even though Terre Haute means "High Land," it's flat as hell. I can swim like a fish, but not with logs and cars floating around or running with the current.