World and Nation

Deadly flooding forces evacuations in Nashville

NASHVILLE — Parts of downtown Nashville were evacuated Monday as the rising Cumberland River, swollen by two days of drenching thunderstorms, flowed into streets near the country music joints and honky-tonk bars that have made the city a tourist attraction.

At least 19 people in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi have been killed as a result of some of the heaviest rains in residents’ memories — 13 inches fell in Nashville, a record for a two-day period.

Officials in Tennessee were bracing for more as the Cumberland continued to rise, reaching 50 feet, a level not seen since the 1960s, before a system of flood-control dams was built. Thirteen deaths have been recorded in Tennessee, including six in Nashville.

Nashville authorities were particularly concerned about a leaking levee that allowed floodwater to spill onto some streets in north Nashville. Flooding also closed First Avenue near the riverfront, and officials feared that it could reach a commuter railroad depot and LP Field, home of the NFL Tennessee Titans. Some restaurants and bars near the river were closed.

About 1,500 guests at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, which sits alongside the Cumberland, were forced to leave the hotel overnight. They were taken by bus to a high school on higher ground. Gaylord Entertainment, which owns the hotel, said on its website that it would probably be closed for several months because of damage from the floodwaters.

One of the city’s two sewage treatment plants was submerged. Mayor Karl Dean of Nashville asked residents to cut their water use in half by using it only for drinking and cooking, or risk contamination of the city’s drinking water.

Bus service in Nashville was suspended because the system’s headquarters were severely flooded. Electric power was cut off to some downtown buildings, including the Symphony Center. All told, about 14,000 customers were without power in Nashville, a city of 626,000 people. The city is the second-largest in Tennessee and home to Vanderbilt University and other colleges and a major regional center for health care, banking and transportation.

“There’s a lot to be done, but we’ll get it done,” Dean said Monday afternoon at a news conference.

Chief Ronal W. Serpas of the Nashville Police Department said that of the city’s six storm-related deaths, two victims were found in their homes, two were in cars and two were outdoors.

Heavy storms deluged the Atlanta area as well, dumping 4 to nearly 6 inches of rain in about six hours early Monday, delaying flights at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and causing flash floods in several creeks.

Firefighters reported rescuing a woman clinging to a wooden dresser floating in her guest house in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, where Nancy Creek flooded. In DeKalb County, part of the metro area, 45 residents were evacuated from a flooded apartment complex.