There are two kinds of emergencies in life. The ones that affect other people and the ones that affect us.
Our hearts go out to those who suffer personal loss and property damages when crises occur elsewhere. The stress is almost as bad as the losses.
But when these disasters hit home or close to home, it’s a whole new ballgame. We can’t just turn the page to the next news item. We have to deal with the emergency and its aftermath.
In just over a year, we’ve had three such crises here in Nashville, Tennessee, where we’re based. Multiple tornadoes in March 2020 that killed 25 people. A Christmas Day suicide bombing that destroyed buildings and wiped out communications.
And late last month, severe weather caused deadly flooding. Plus extensive property damage and power outages.
Fire Department Rescues 130 People
On March 27, torrential rainfall in Nashville produced flash flooding that killed at least four people. It was the city’s second-highest two-day rainfall ever. It flooded neighborhoods across Davidson County.
Some people were clinging to trees to avoid rising waters. Others climbed into their attics. Eighteen homes in one neighborhood were evacuated. One house was blown off its foundation.
By the next morning, the Nashville Fire Department had rescued at least 130 people. From their vehicles, houses and apartments. As well as from other buildings and at homeless camps.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper quickly declared a state of emergency in Music City. He said the county would need state and federal resources to rebound. Even Interstate 40 had to be temporarily closed.
Rivers Overflow, Roads Closed
All around Nashville, rivers, creeks and streams breached their banks due to the heavy rainfall. That includes the Cumberland River flowing through downtown Nashville. Tens of thousands of power outages were reported.
In nearby Mt. Juliet, an entire shopping center was submerged in water. That’s according to a report from the Nashville Weather Service. During the storm, at least eight homes were struck by lightning.
In Williamson County, south of Nashville, emergency crews responded to at least 35 swift water rescue calls. They came from people in homes and vehicles. More than 50 roads had to be closed.
About 80 miles southwest of Nashville, tornadoes were reported. They seriously damaged or destroyed two houses that same day. Downed trees blocked roads near Linden and Lexington.
Storm System Slams Other States
Tennessee wasn’t the only state affected by this powerful storm system. Severe weather stretched from Texas to North Carolina.
Five tornadoes were reported in eastern Texas. Plus eight in Arkansas and one in Mississippi. Arkansas residents reported hail the size of baseballs.
Damaging winds of up to 65 miles per hour, thunderstorms and flooding impacted some 30 million Americans.
Including those in large metropolitan areas. Such as Atlanta, Raleigh and Washington, D.C.
Grim Reminders of 2010
The loss of life and large-scale damages reminded some Nashville residents of May 2010. That’s when severe storms struck, causing 21 deaths in Tennessee. And an estimated $1.5 billion in damages.
Overall, they resulted in 31 deaths and $2.3 billion in damages across Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi.
In some areas, the two-days rain totals were greater than 19 inches. The Cumberland River crested at more than 51 feet. That was a level not seen since 1937.
Ten of the 21 Tennessee deaths occurred in Davidson County, which includes Nashville. Four were found in their homes, four outside and two in cars.
Grand Ole Opry House a Casualty
At least 30 counties in Tennessee were declared major disaster areas by the federal government. This equates to about 31 percent of the state.
Nearly all the Nashville public schools were closed due to storm damage and flooding. Repair work on Interstate 40 lasted for several months.
Among the damaged buildings were the Grand Ole Opry House. And the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. As well as the homes of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans (Nissan Stadium) and the NHL’s Nashville Predators (Bridgestone Arena).
Fast forward to late last month. One of the CNN images showed a half-submerged fire truck on a road. That’s how quickly floodwaters can rise during an intense storm.
Pray for the Best, Prepare for the Worst
Yes, it’s been a rough 14 months for us here in Nashville. But it’s very likely you’ve experienced the same or worse in your neck of the woods.
Disasters are not selective. They can strike anytime and anywhere. And as I’ve said many times, the common denominator is almost always power outages.
So, we can do one of two things. We can either hope and pray we never have an extended blackout where we live.
Or, we can assume that one will occur – possibly very soon – and prepare for it with backup power. The ball is in our court.