Torrential rains slammed into the Nashville region overnight, pushing creeks and rivers past their banks and leaving at least four people dead Sunday morning, authorities said.
The storm that hit Tennessee brought the second-highest two-day rainfall total in Nashville history, and the most for a single day in March. More than 100 people needed to be rescued from flooded cars, apartments and homes, authorities said.
Meanwhile, the flash flood warnings remained in effect for Nashville, Franklin and Brentwood all the way until 11 a.m. as creeks and rivers continued to rise , according to the National Weather Service.
By Sunday afternoon, Mayor John Cooper had declared a local state of emergency because of the flooding. Flood waters on the Harpeth and Cumberland rivers continued to rise as expected based on the rainfall.
Still, in the Bellevue area, it was a worrisome sign. Homeowners continued to prepare for the worst. Roads remained closed.
Swift-water rescue crews rescued at least 130 people from automobiles, apartments and houses, Nashville Fire Department spokesperson Joseph Pleasant said.
NASHVILLE RAINFALL TOTALS:Storm brings single wettest March day in city history
Police recovered the body of a 70-year-old man from a vehicle near Seven Mile Creek and a Walmart off Nolensville Pike, according to Metro Police Cmd. Keith Stephens. Police had to wait for flood waters to recede before recovering the body, Stephens said.
Metro Police reported another presumed flood death of a 65-year-old man on the Nashboro Village golf course Sunday morning. Authorities believe the man’s car ran off the road into a culvert at Nashboro Boulevard and Flintlock Court and that the man exited the car and was swept away by high water, police said.
By mid-morning, police said two additional people died. Police said they found a 64-year-old man and a 46-year-old woman dead near a homeless camp in a wooded area near Wentworth-Caldwell Park on Edmondson Pike. Flooding from Seven Mile Creek hit the area, police said.
“The rainfall we got yesterday and overnight made this one of wettest 24-hour periods in Nashville’s history,” National Weather Service meteorologist Sam Shamburger said Sunday morning. “It’s the worst flooding event we’ve seen since the May 2010 flood. But the main difference is this event affected a much smaller area than the 2010 flood.”
Nashville International Airport had 7.01 inches of rainfall recorded from about 5 a.m., Saturday to 5 a.m., Sunday, Shamburger said.
Areas that saw the heaviest rainfall, according to initial estimates, are Mt. Juliet, Lebanon, Brentwood and northern parts of Franklin over to Centerville. In Davidson County, Oak Hill, Woodbine, Antioch and Hermitage received heavy rain, according to Shamburger.
As of 12:45 p.m., about 1,800 Nashville Electric Service customers were without power, down from more than 7,000 earlier in the day.
Nashville Fire Department crews responded overnight to an apartment in the 5100 block of Linbar Drive in Antioch.
“Crews found that a building structure had been compromised due to a mudslide,” Fire Department spokesperson Kendra Loney said. “There were multiple people unable to leave the building on their own due to flooding in the area. Boat 13 was launched and were able to rescue at least 15 persons from that building.”
Two people were taken to the hospital for non-critical injuries, Loney said.
Luc DiGiuseppe stuck his head into his bedroom window as his father, Joe, held up the blinds. Stains on the wall indicated water got as high as 5 feet inside his apartment, as the Sorghum Branch creek that cuts across the property got flooded overnight.
The two had been in Kentucky Saturday, where Luc DiGiuseppe, a musician, visits every Saturday nigh ahead of his gig at church. He took two guitars with him this week. Fourteen left behind in his Antioch apartment were destroyed, along with his computer and recording equipment.
“It’s OK. It’s just stuff,” his dad gently reminded him.
He nodded along, making plans to drive up to Kentucky to grab his guitar to make it in time for his 2 p.m. set at Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row on Lower Broadway.
At Camp Bow Wow on Craighead Street, crews rescued 40 dogs, Pleasant said.
In total, from midnight Saturday through 6 a.m. Sunday, the Metro Nashville Department of Emergency Communications has received 2,429 911 calls, a 40% increase from the same period last week and 2,789 non-emergency calls, a 34% increase.
During the weather event, 911 operators received a call every 19 seconds, on average, the Office of Emergency Management reported.
Officials feel ‘comfortable’ with Cumberland River levels
Cooper and city officials stood along the Cumberland River downtown as they gave a midday briefing. The river was continuing to rise, reaching flood stage at 40 feet by 1 p.m. Sunday.
It’s expected to peak at 42 feet just past midnight — compared to the 52 feet it reached in 2010.
“We are very, very comfortable where the river is at this point,” Metro Water Services Director Scott Potter said.
Officials are keeping a close on on rising river levels and its proximity to the lowest storm drain at the base of Lower Broadway.
While the river may “look alarming,” Potter said both Metro Water facilities were safe and working fine. He said he is reassured by the forecasting from the weather service and how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is managing releases from dams on the river.
Cooper called the deaths “deeply disturbing.” Nashville, he said, will improve its disaster response moving forward as it did after the 2010 flood.
“I don’t have the facts right now to understand why we lost lives exactly, but I’m counting on our emergency departments to have a very thorough analysis,” Cooper said. “We are grateful we’re standing here on the shore and realize that this is not 2010.”
Brentwood resident on floods: ‘You count on those around you’
The Wildwood neighborhood in Brentwood saw the worst flooding since the 2010 flood, when waters rose to historic heights and destroyed at least one home.
Saturday night’s storms caused the Harpeth River to swell, spilling floodwater into the homes and yards of residents along Harpeth River Drive.
Carolyn Miller, who has lived in her Noel Drive home since 2007, said some of her neighbors on the Harpeth River had to be rescued by emergency crews overnight as waters encroached on their homes. Her home suffered some damage from the flooding, when water rushed into the crawlspace beneath her home and fried her AC unit.
Her yard was littered with debris Sunday morning. Sports balls previously lost to the river now deposited near her doorway. One of the bushes decorating her yard was brought to her by floodwaters in 2010, so she planted it. Eleven years later, it survived another flood.
“This neighborhood has been great, because starting around midnight, people started texting our thread,” she said. “And once people got stuck, we were able to tell the police and tell them where to go.”
Just like after the 2010 flood, Miller expects the neighborhood to pull together to assist with cleanup efforts after the flood recedes.
“With any emergency situation, you count on those around you,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to be in a different neighborhood.”
Williamson County evacuations, rising Harpeth River
In Williamson County, more than 50 roads were closed Sunday morning due to flooding, according to the county’s Emergency Management Agency. Authorities received 34 swift-water rescue calls.
Between 12 and 18 homes have been evacuated along Harpeth River Drive, the agency said. Evacuations also took place in the Meadowgreen Acres Subdivision and along Old Harding Road and Del Rio Pike.
Brentwood Fire and Rescue crews helped more than 50 people and at one point went door to door along Harpeth Drive, the Brentwood Police Department
In Williamson County, the rainfall has swelled the Harpeth River. The river is forecast to rise to 34.8 feet Sunday night, which would make it the third highest flood stage on record, the National Weather Service said.
‘My car was drifting in the water’
Cody Travis, a soldier stationed at Fort Campbell near Clarksville, visited Nashville with a group of fellow soldiers Saturday evening. He said he wasn’t aware of the potential for severe storms that evening but stuck to back roads when the heavy rain started on the drive home.
Around 2 a.m., Travis drove to what looked like a shallow stretch of standing water near Antioch Pike. He tried to drive through the water but immediately felt water rush into the car and start pooling up in his floorboards. The car’s electrical systems failed, and his car started floating in the water.
“I started seeing water start going on the hood. Then I felt the wheels start spinning,” the 19-year-old Travis said. “Everything was dead. My car was drifting in the water.”
Within seconds, the car tilted to the right and started sinking into the water.
“It started careening to the right, allowing water to get in the passenger side window,” Travis said. “I had barely enough time to unbuckle my seatbelt and push (another soldier) out the window.”
Travis and his six passengers escaped the vehicle and were stranded in the rain for two hours. Under normal circumstances, Travis said they would have gotten water survival training as part of their basic training. The coronavirus pandemic canceled that training.
“Thankfully, it wasn’t floating over a bridge or something like that, or else… you know,” Travis said.
Travis purchased the vehicle, a Ford Expedition, just two weeks ago. The car is currently on its side near Antioch Pike, he said, and he’s returning today to recover what he can before filing an insurance claim.
“It was just devastating, as soon as I started seeing water go in the floorboard,” Travis said.
Road closures, rescues in Wilson County
In Mt. Juliet, the authorities had to rescue at least three people from a home on West Division Street, Police Capt. Tyler Chandler said. The department reported five non-injury crashes and twelve vehicle water rescues. No deaths or serious injuries have been reported.
The city has reports of other flooded homes and numerous road closures, Chandler said. Among the flooded and impassable roads: Mt. Juliet Road from Division Street to Westin Drive; Mt. Juliet Road near Old Lebanon Dirt Road; and Old Lebanon Dirt Road near the Davidson County line.
“From personal experience this is about 2010 status for us,” Chandler said. “I don’t know if that is the same for elsewhere and talking to our officers who have been here for the 2010 flood, they say it’s worse for our area.”
Lebanon Public Square has about two feet of water, Mayor Rick Bell said.
“There are a lot of people in Lebanon who are suffering right now, so keep them in your prayers,” Bell said.
Rutherford County water rescues, hard hit areas
In Rutherford County, county fire crews performed five rescues by 4 a.m. Sunday, not including any conducted inside Murfreesboro city limits, the county Emergency Management Agency reported.
Crews rescued eight people. There were no injuries, the agency reported. No homes have been evacuated.
“It’s been a long night,” Rutherford County Public Safety Director Chris Clark said in a statement. “Our main focus was planning and resource management, including calling on additional water rescue teams, deciding on how to transport victims, and pinpointing shelter options.”
The hardest hit areas were on the south side of the county near Eagleville, Christiana and Rockvale, Clark said.
“As the sun rises, we anticipate some water rescue responses as people start heading to church and moving about,” he said.
As of around 6:30 a.m., 10 additional calls came in, according to the county.
“It will take a while for the water to recede,” Clark said. “The Stones River is out of its banks with nowhere for the water to go. Percy Pwiriest is projected to rise up to 10 feet in the next 24 hours as well.”
So far, the two-day rainfall total for the storm is 6.69 inches, surpassing the 6.68 inches measured on Sept. 13-14, 1979, giving the city the second largest two-day rainfall in city history. The amount only trails May 1-2, 2010, when more than 13 inches of rain fell.
COVID-19 vaccinations still on
Cooper said at a news conference that coronavirus vaccination appointments would proceed as scheduled Sunday. Click here for more information on Nashville’s vaccine rollout.
Nashville weather forecast
Sunday: Clouds and some rain could linger through the morning, with some potentially heavy rainfall in the mix. Sunday afternoon should be mostly sunny with a high near 62 and wind gusts up to 25 mph. Temperatures are expected to drop overnight into the upper 30s and a light wind out of the northwest.
Monday: The cold temperatures Sunday night could produce patchy frost early Monday morning, but temperatures should warm to a high of 64 degrees under sunny skies with calm winds out of the southeast.
Tuesday: The day should start mostly clear with temperatures climbing to a high in the mid 70s under sunny skies. Winds out of the south could gust up to 20 mph during the day. The forecast includes a chance of rain late Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning, with the potential for a thunderstorm in the mix.
Nashville weather radar
This is a developing story.