| FLOOD RAVAGED – Floodwater from the Cumberland River creeps into downtown Nashville, Monday, May 3. Heavy weekend rain caused the Cumberland River, which winds through Nashville, to overflow its banks flooding part of downtown and other areas around the city. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) |
University of Tennessee at Martin student Kara Kidwell described the events that will be forever etched into her memory as “surreal.”
The weekend getaway began with Kidwell and a couple of friends heading to Middle Tennessee to help “Parrot Heads “across the state welcome Jimmy Buffett to the stage of Bridgestone Arena on Saturday. The group’s spirits wavered some as they drove closer to Nashville amidst heavy rains and detoured traffic.
After the engine on their car stalled near the Bucksnort exit, Kidwell said they did something that was typically frowned upon by their parents when they accepted a ride from a stranger, Doyle and his grandson, Austin.
Dodging and weaving traffic along I-40, the van full of people managed to get into Nashville to a friend’s house who would provide shelter for them that evening. They parted ways with Doyle, freshened up and headed downtown for the Buffett concert.
Doyle refused any money and only requested that the strangers “pay it forward.”
“We didn’t realize how prophetic the final song was that Jimmy Buffett sang that night with ‘Stories We Will Tell,’” Kidwell shared.
Through the stormy weather Saturday evening and early Sunday morning, the group of friends slept sound, unknowing of what was to come when they awoke on Sunday morning.
“A friend went to the bathroom and noticed there was water. We thought it was as simple as the toilet backing up. It was then that we looked outside and found that the front and back yards were flooded at his house,” Kidwell said.
By 9 a.m. on Sunday, water was already burying the tires of the cars outside. Within 15 minutes, the group managed to grab the two cats, the dog, pet meds and backpacks before the rising water reached their knees in the house.
“There were neighbors outside who were helping others get out of their homes along that street. When we stepped off the porch, the water was waist deep. There was all of this rushing water. It was still raining, thundering and lightening,” Kidwell shared.
They managed to make it across the street to higher ground and was given a dry place to gather their thoughts at a stranger’s home.
“We met a guy who had his two god children with him who had just moved in down the street. They hadn’t even unpacked. All they had when they walked out of the house was the clothes on their back,” she added.
Their friend’s home was only 10 minutes from downtown Nashville. Kidwell said they learned later that a levee to a nearby creek had burst.
Later that evening, while they hunkered down in a hotel room with their minds reeling from the day’s events, Kidwell said they saw their friend’s house on television, almost completely submerged by flood waters.
Fortunately, he had flood insurance; but a large percentage of the masses that were affected by the flood that has put commerce, education, travel and clean up at a halt, did not have that type of insurance.
“We met a woman who was devastated. All she could say was ‘I’ve lost everything.’ It took all you could do not to get choked up,” Kidwell said.
The stories of rescue efforts and mass devastation will be forever engraved into the minds of those who lived it or knew someone who lived it.
“We actually saw a fire vehicle that had its sirens on with a trailer carrying rescue boats on the back of it. We were all in shock. It was absolutely surreal. That’s all we could say to describe it,” Kidwell said.
“Even through all of the damage and the material possessions that were lost this weekend, we all made it out in one piece and that’s the most important thing. This is definitely not something we want to ever go through again,” she added.
“It was Buffett or bust and we definitely busted on that trip. We are no worse for the wear. But I pray that wherever you are Doyle and Austin, that you are safe,” Kidwell said.
Help is coming to the water-ravaged region of Middle Tennessee in the form of the Red Cross and the National Guard.
People in Kenton and Shelby County have just begun clean-up and assessments of the properties engulfed with torrential downpours and levee breaches over the weekend.
Dyer County is under a watch and wait as the runoff from fields and tributaries of the Obion River pour into Dyersburg.
As of Wednesday, Pres. Barack Obama had issued a federal disaster declaration for six counties in Tennessee: Cheatham, Davidson, Hickman, Williamson, Montgomery and Dyer counties.
Gov. Phil Bredesen requested a declaration of 52 Tennessee counties on Monday.
The American Red Cross chapters across the state are gathering supplies such as food and water and requesting donations for additional relief efforts.
The Obion County chapter serves Weakley, Lake and Obion counties. Donations of food and water can be dropped off at its office in Union City beside the courthouse.
Those supplies will be used for families in the tri-county region.
On a business level, the Dollar General corporation is providing aid to flood victims in Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee through merchandise donations to the American Red Cross.
The company is donating a variety of supplies to the Red Cross, such as personal hygiene products, socks, underwear, diapers and other baby products. The company is also donating cleaning supplies to Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville.
Customers can join the relief efforts at any Dollar General store across the state by contributing monetary or product donations at the registers.
For more information about the American Red Cross, visit redcross.org.