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.