May 1st 2010 started as any other typical Saturday for me, slept late then got up to work a while. As I turned on the television I noticed weather reports stating we were under thunderstorm watches. Nothing out of the ordinary for a typical May in Tennessee really. As I sat down in front of my laptop I gazed out my window and noticed the sky was turning really dark and the thunder began to boom. I continued working but began paying attention to the weather bulletins flashing across the bottom of the T.V. screen. The sky turned an ominous dark black, the rain began to fall in sheets and we were given the warning to prepare for possible tornadoes. Not being one to panic I continued to work but decided it would be best to move into the hallway with my dogs just to be cautious. After two hours of hard rain, winds and some hail we were given the all clear. I went to the kitchen and fixed some lunch and as I sat down I noticed my backyard was beginning to look like a small pond. There is a creek down from my house that was beginning to fill rapidly but I had no reason to be alarmed. The rain continued to pound my house but I continued working and kept an eye on the creek.
After a few more hours of continuous downpours the water began to breach the 10ft high walls. I noticed the water approaching the very back of my fence so I began to get concerned. My phone rang at 5:30 pm and my neighbor Joyce, whose house sits behind mine, called and told me she was trapped in her house. Joyce has some medical issues so I assured her I would be right there to get her. I grabbed my keys and went to the garage to get my car, while calling my other neighbors to check on them. As my garage door opened I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, my entire front yard looked like a river. Realizing I couldn’t get to Joyce I ran back inside and looked out the back door only to see my back yard was now a river too. Out the back I noticed my neighbor Charlie swimming towards my fence with a dog in tow. As I went out to try to help Charlie and tell him about Joyce he yelled for me to leave and said he would make sure everyone got out.
The water was still rising and I knew I had to heed his advice and leave. I pride myself on being calm in crisis situations but I can honestly say I was scared to death. Trying not to panic I grabbed my purse and my dogs and headed to my SUV. As I was putting the dogs in the car the plumbing in my house started going crazy. Looking out my windshield before me sat a river of fast moving water that came half way up my 9ft trees but I knew leaving was my only option. As I began making my way down my driveway the water came rushing up to my windows and my car began to lose traction. I gripped the steering wheel and began to pray. It’s funny what runs through your head when you think this may be it. I remember thinking that today would have been my grandmother’s 92nd birthday and how much I still miss her. In the blink of an eye my car began to catch traction again and I was able to make it to the paved road. As soon as my back tires left my driveway the water washed it away. I looked over at my house and said goodbye because in my heart I knew it would be lost. My options were very limited but I knew I had to get to higher ground. Cautiously I made my way down the back winding roads to get to the main highway. There were six small creeks I had to drive across and each time I didn’t think I would make it.
After what seemed liked hours I made it to the main road and began to relax a little. I called my sister and she told me to come to her house because the flooding had not reached them. As I made my way down Highway 231 I had to stop suddenly the water had made its way over the road and taken two cars with it. There was an officer there who had helped the people out of the cars and he told me to turn around. I did as he suggested and finally made my way to Interstate 40 knowing I had one bridge left and I would be home free. As I approached the bridge I didn’t see any water coming across so having no other option I made my way. As soon as I made it across the bridge the water broke free and covered it. A short time later I finally made it safe and sound to my sister’s house with just the clothes on my back, my purse and my dogs.
While there I called and checked on the rest of my neighbors and thank God everyone made it out and was fine. We began watching news coverage and the reality of how horrible and devastating this flooding was began to sink in. I spent all night on the phone getting in touch with everyone I knew to make sure they were ok. The next morning around 6am I took a quick shower at my sister’s and decided I needed to see the damage to my house first hand. As I made my way back home I kept thinking how grateful I was because we made it and in all honesty as hard as it seems things can be replaced. I approached my house and there was still about 2 feet of water in the yard up to the garage so I waded through. I got the garage door open and the smell almost knocked me back. I noticed the water was almost up to the door and as I unlocked the door I prepared for the worst. I turned the door knob and peaked inside and could not believe what I saw. My house was fine there was no water inside! I literally got down on my hands and knees’ feeling around because I couldn’t believe my house was untouched.
Most of my neighbors did not fare as well and their homes received anywhere from 2-4 feet of water inside. The rain continued to fall and we were advised that our homes were not safe and we needed to leave. I decided to stay as long as I could and packed a bag and began picking up anything I could to get it to a higher surface. The creek began to rise again and my best friends husband insisted I leave and come to their house because there house was safe. I went and was able to watch from his upstairs window as again the rivers flowed around my house. I thought to myself there is no way I could be this lucky a second time. A sense of acceptance and peace came over me because I knew the important thing is that we were all alive. The next morning after another sleepless night I made my way back to my house. The rain had stopped and the sun was shining, how ironic. I opened the door and couldn’t believe it again my house had been spared any terrible damage. I had water inside my garage and back door but nothing that I couldn’t handle. My neighbors all got together and we started with the house next to mine to begin the cleanup process. We ripped out carpets and flooring while salvaging what items we could. The guys from the nearby churches rebuilt our driveways some so we could get in and out. We all did what we could to pitch in and help.
Later that night I was watching the news and just trying to take in the total devastation that was happening to my Nashville. We received almost 20 inches of rain in two days and lost 28 lives. People were just driving home from work and got swept away. The Opryland Hotel and the Grand Ole Opry, historic landmarks of TN, not to mention countless homes and businesses destroyed. This was the single worst disaster to hit Middle Tennessee since the Civil War. The more I watched the more my heart became heavy and I felt compelled to help. My cousin who lives in another part of TN that wasn’t affected called me and said he too had to help. He made some calls and I ended up going to shoot some video footage of the devastation and talking with Jennie Seely (the queen of the Grand Ole Opry). As I was filming I remember breaking down and crying because my city that I loved so much looked like a war zone. Cars were stacked up like dominos, homes were completely gone and debris was as high as the eye could see. I spent the next few days interviewing people about the devastation while trying to bring awareness. With the gracious help of Dolly Parton we were able to raise a lot of money to help victims which was truly amazing. They call Tennessee the Volunteer State and we pride ourselves on living up to that name. We pulled together in our darkest hour to help our neighbors. I believe at last count the damage was in the billions and it took almost two years for Opryland to reopen and Nashville to return to normal but it did.
For about a year after the flooding took place I would keep a bag packed at the backdoor and would freak out every time it rained. I will never forget how close I came to losing everything and how proud I was at the way we pulled together to handle it. One of the biggest lessons I learned was to appreciate every day and never take for granted the people who mean the most to you.
© 2013 Merri Scott