NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–President Obama declared 11 counties in Tennessee major disaster areas May 6, bringing the total number of statewide counties receiving the designation to 21 and making it clear that the record flood damage stretches well beyond the Nashville area.
The counties span from West to Middle Tennessee and the list likely will grow in the coming days. The designation makes homeowners — many of whom had no flood insurance — eligible for federal aid.
The Tennessee death toll from the May 1-2 flood rose to 21 Thursday when a Shelby County death was determined to be flood-related. More than 13 inches of rain fell during the two-day period in the Nashville area, flooding streams and rivers and damaging thousands of homes. Some have called it a “once every 500 year” flood.
(Donations for disaster relief can be made on the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s website, www.tnbaptist.org).
The flood was so immense that Thursday — four days after the rain stopped — dozens of roads throughout West and Middle Tennessee remained closed. Yet even when the water does recede, some of the roads will remain impassable because of major damage to the pavement. Four counties remained under flood warnings Thursday.
The flooding and road closures in Montgomery County have prevented the Cumberland Baptist Association, which is based in Clarksville about an hour northwest of Nashville, from getting a full assessment of the damage to its area. Officials with the association estimate there are hundreds of houses in Montgomery County alone with flood damage. The county is one of the 21 that have been named a disaster area.
The Cumberland River that did so much damage to Nashville also slices through Clarksville. It was still 10 feet above flood level mid-day Thursday in Clarksville.
“Every major road in Clarksville has been flooded and we only had one street where we could reach downtown,” Dennis Pulley, associational missionary for the Cumberland Baptist Association, which is made up of about 50 churches, told Baptist Press. “The traffic has been horrendous. Any time you try and go some place, it’s a nightmare, like a parking lot.”
The river is falling, Pulley said, but “not as rapidly as we would like.”
The Cumberland Baptist Association (www.cumberlandba.org) and associations like it throughout the area have listed on their website ways people can help. The associations also have online forms for flood victims requesting help.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean estimated the city suffered at least $1 billion in damage. But David Acres, director of disaster relief ministries for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, said the flood is far from a Nashville-only problem.
“You’ve got so many different areas that have been affected,” he told BP.
Churches across the region are stepping up to the challenge. Two churches — Judson Baptist Church in Nashville and Poplar Heights Baptist Church in Jackson — will host disaster relief feeding units that will prepare around 10,000 and 5,000-7,000 meals a day, respectively. Southern Baptist disaster relief units will prepare the food and the American Red Cross will take the meals into the surrounding communities.
The flood has provided some unique opportunities for churches. Two Rivers Baptist in Nashville will host the Grand Ole Opry May 14-15 after the Opry House was flooded, interim pastor Ed Stetzer told church members in an e-mail Thursday. The church has “been assured that the content will be appropriate for our setting,” the e-mail said. Two Rivers is located less than a mile from the Opry House. Two Rivers also is hosting the final weeks of the school year for Donelson Christian Academy’s middle and high school grades, as well as the command post for Samaritan’s Post.
Acres and a crew accessed damage to Franklin Thursday and will look at the damage to Nashville Friday.
Elsewhere in the state, the Baptist and Reflector newsjournal reported:
— The People’s Church in Franklin provided an American Red Cross Shelter May 1-4. The first night the shelter housed 11 families.
— Bellevue Baptist Church in Nashville began serving flood victims May 4 in coordination with the mayor’s office, Tennessee Baptist disaster relief and the Nashville Baptist Association. The church had distributed about 250 family food boxes from Second Harvest Food Bank. Church members also prepared and served three meals a day beginning May 5 and distributed meals in communities. On May 5 the church served dinner to about 100 people. Bellevue Baptist pastor Mike Shelton said about half of the members of the church saw flood damage to their homes “but everybody’s safe as far as I know.” The church draws about 425 to its two Sunday morning worship services.
— Three Baptist churches in Goodlettsville and Hendersonville — both located just north of Nashville — were flooded. Madison Creek Baptist Church in Goodlettsville received about four feet of water on its lower level, pastor Jim Ryan said. New Hope Baptist Church in Hendersonville had about three feet of water in its sanctuary and one foot in the rest of the building. Bledsoe Creek Baptist Church in Bethpage also was flooded. “I’ve seen tears shed,” said Mike Pennington, director of missions of the Bledsoe Baptist Association, based in Gallatin. “People put so much effort into their churches.”
— First Baptist Church in Millington — 20 miles north of Memphis — began serving as an American Red Cross shelter May 3 when it housed 98 people despite the fact the church was flooded by a roof leak. Water entered the church’s foyer and flooded the 1,650-seat sanctuary, said pastor David Leavell, but the rest of the six-year-old facility was dry, so the church responded to the need. Also Faith Heritage Baptist Church and Faith Heritage Christian Academy, both in Millington, were flooded.
— A church near Millington, Crossway Baptist Church in Brighton, was flooded by about four feet of water. The church, though, did have flood insurance, said pastor Greg Gilbreath. “If the insurance company rebuilds the building we’ll still be without a lot of things that we need,” he said.
The following counties have been declared disaster areas: Carroll, Cheatham, Crockett, Davidson, Decatur, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Haywood, Henderson, Hickman, Houston, Madison, McNairy, Montgomery, Obion, Perry, Shelby, Tipton and Williamson.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. With reporting by Connie Bushey, news editor of the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. The B&R may be read online at www.tnbaptist.org/BRNews. Donate to Tennessee flood disaster relief at www.TnBaptist.org, or by sending a check payable to TBC, P.O. Box 728, Brentwood, TN 37024. Be sure to include the designation “TN Floods 2010” on the check. Learn ways you can help in the Nashville area at www.nashvillebaptistassociation.org. Learn ways you can help in the Clarksville area at www.cumberlandba.org.