As many of you have seen in the news, Nashville, along with many other communities in Tennessee, was inundated with major flooding following a weekend storm that dropped nearly 14 inches of rain in a 2-day span this past week. Here at the Division, when disasters occur in areas outside Colorado and we are not directly involved in an assistance request, we take time to learn from our colleagues and consider how we might respond to a similar disaster. Due to Colorado's Flood History, the events in Tennessee are certainly one our mitigation and long-term recovery staff are following. If you are interested also following the State of Tennessee's response to the flooding, you can monitor the State of Tennessee Emergency Management Agency online on their main site, on the TNEMA's Twitter Feed or check out their TNEMA's Flickr Photo Site where you can find the latest info on the flood response.
One of our mitigation officers, Iain Hyde, spent a few years in Nashville and has many friends and family in the area. After some back and forth with Iain on the events and the local context, I asked him to put together a quick piece since I think his perspective from a hazard mitigation point, along with an intimate knowledge of the area, you might find interesting. Iain's comments follow:
"The Army Corps of Engineers has classified the event as a 1,000-year flood (http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/pao/News/10-27%20dams%20worked%20as%20designed.htm). The flooding forced thousands of people out of their homes and there are a number of reported fatalities. Media reports indicate that residents are currently under mandatory water use restrictions due to the flooding of one of the city’s two water treatment plants. Power was reported out in portions of the city and thousands of homes are damaged or destroyed. Many businesses, restaurants and music clubs in Downtown Nashville are damaged. LP Field where the Tennessee Titans play, along with the Bridgestone Arena, where the NHL’s Nashville Predators were playing up until last week both reportedly took on significant levels of water. Famed cultural institutions such as the Opryland Hotel, the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the symphony hall are all damaged.
Many of the challenges faced by emergency service workers in Tennessee could easily be the “worst-case” scenarios that emergency management organizations use in their exercises. More than 1,000 water rescues were reported conducted in the Nashville area alone. With thousands of displaced residents needing shelter and even a reported 1500 guests at the Opryland Hotel, movement of people and establishment of perimeters clear of the dangerous floodwaters were necessary. I understand that even the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, who were helping support resource allocations and requests to support emergencies across numerous jurisdictions, were forced to relocate to an alternate Emergency Operations Center after theirs was flooded.
The event also brought out stories of neighbors helping neighbors and strangers helping strangers. For those private citizens who see this event and want to prepare for even the smallest of events, FEMA’s Citizen Corps and Community Emergency Response Team trainings are excellent resources. The recovery process is only starting, as local, state and federal officials along with non-profits and the people of Tennessee will work together to repair homes, get businesses back up and running, ensure that critical infrastructure is functioning properly, and ultimately getting music back into Nashville’s clubs and concert halls. We wish them the best in the difficult days ahead."
What struck me about Iain's thoughts on the TN flood response was the nexus of Nashville's community, tourist and response complexities and its clear similarity to challenges we face in Colorado. To continue with Iain's comments, for focused information regarding Colorado Citizen Emergency Response Teams, contact Cathy Prudhomme in the Governor's Office of Homeland Security. She can help you organize, recruit and inform at the local level on Citizen's Response Team programs. Too, be sure to check out READYColorado for a wealth of information on citizen preparedness, checklists, family communication plans and more. Too, read more about Colorado's Flood History and associated hazards on our DEM Flood Information Page.