Nashville flood victims keep weary eyes on the sky

8:52 AM, Aug 9, 2013   |    comments
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By Heidi Hall, The Tennessean

Middle Tennessee families traumatized twice in three years by devastating floodwaters are looking nervously to the skies again, a foreboding forecast of two days of rain threatening more loss.

Thursday's flooding overtook at least 100 homes and businesses in Nashville and an untold number in Wilson County - which hasn't completed its disaster totals - in a frightening reminder of May 2010 flooding.

Flash flood patterns were so sporadic that some families lost everything, while neighbors a mile away were unaware a disaster was happening. Some homeowners suffered the second devastating blow since 2010, while others who never experienced flooding problems found themselves carried out of their houses.

Still, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said there's no comparison to the massive losses of three years ago, and by afternoon, Dry Creek and Whites Creek were back in their banks. The Cumberland River, which overlook Second Avenue downtown in 2010, never flooded. It's expected to crest at 25.5 feet today, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said, well below its 40-foot flood stage.

The brunt of the rains fell in northern parts of Davidson County, in areas such as Madison and Bordeaux, which saw 7.5 inches fall in about three hours.

Nashville emergency workers took more than 200 calls from people stranded in their homes and cars, but in the end, all were safe.

The city is prepared for more rescues if the weather takes an unexpected turn for the worse, Dean said.

Yet another loss

Midmorning Thursday, a defeated Valerie Bostic found herself in soaked pajamas, with nothing to do but stare as floodwaters rushed through her apartment in Parkwood Villa off Brick Church Pike.

In May 2010, she lost only a car. This time, she lost everything.

"It took me six months to start sleeping again because every time it rained I was nervous," Bostic said.

There's no telling how she'll sleep now. She was awakened at 5 a.m. Thursday by a neighbor banging on her apartment door. When she opened it, water flowed in, quickly rising to her waist. Bostic had time to grab only her glasses and shoes before she escaped.

Outside, the early morning deluge tripped car alarms on partially submerged vehicles in the apartment complex parking lot.

Water seeped into the sanctuary and offices at Cathedral of Praise Church on Clarksville Highway. Church members and volunteers gathered Thursday to assess the damage and to clean up what the floodwaters ruined. About a foot of water filled the church's basement, soaking items in the clothing bank.

Water from Ewing Creek overtook Ewingdale Drive near the Briley Parkway and Interstate 24 interchange. When Jonnetta Roper stepped out of bed, her feet made a heart-stopping splash. She said the neighborhood was harder hit Thursday than in 2010, a disaster that gives her anxiety every time it rains.

"The water was just flowing freely," Roper said. "Maybe we can get some attention now. Other communities were taken care of after the 2010 flood."

At 1436 Neelys Bend Road, the water opened a sinkhole, which is expected to close the road for up to four weeks, said Jenna Smith, spokeswoman for Metro Public Works. She said floodwaters washed out a 72-inch culvert.

Hovering storm system

The spotty but dangerous flash flooding resulted from a storm system that hovered over a narrow band of Middle Tennessee for several hours early Thursday morning, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Bobby Boyd. As it moved east, the storm regenerated, drenching areas north of Interstate 40.

As the day wore on, waves of scattered rain washed over the Midstate, keeping flood watches active for hours.

It was part of a system that also destroyed parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri. A woman died near Jane, Mo., in the far southwestern corner of the state when creek water washed over a highway, sweeping away her car.

When the rain reached Wilson County, it saturated Mt. Juliet, causing numerous pockets of flooding that closed roads, prompted a handful of water rescues and damaged homes and businesses. The weather service's Boyd said parts of Wilson recorded almost 6 inches of rain from midnight to noon Thursday.

A large portion of the Mt. Juliet Little League fields was flooded, newly restored after a tornado slammed them Jan. 30.

"I'm sure we lost some soil, but we won't be able to assess the damage until the water goes down," League Vice President Doug Frey said. "It seems like we've been snake bit lately, but we hope for the best."

Teach A Child, an educational supply business in Valley Center, also was flooded in May and August 2010, costing the business $57,000 in damaged merchandise, owner Sonia Dorer said.

"It's not as much water (as 2010), but the hard part for us is Teach A Child uses a lot of paper products," Dorer said. "We have flood insurance this time, but it's back-to-school season, and we have tons of orders. Our biggest loss is loss of business."

In Sumner County, emergency workers conducted one water rescue in Hendersonville in the Walton Trace subdivision, according to Bob Galoppi with the Hendersonville Fire Department.

About six homes were flooded with water in garages and crawl spaces, and two more homes were affected on nearby Curtiswood Drive.

Walton Trace resident Michelle Conley woke up at 6:15 a.m. to find water up to the front steps of her home and the doors of her car.

"Everything in the garage was floating," she said. "I've never seen a flash flood like that."

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