NASHVILLE, Tenn. —One couple was swept away by floodwaters while driving to dinner, part of the routine they cherished in retirement. Another retired couple died on the way to church, while a third pair were found in their inundated home. After decades of marriage, the three husbands and three wives died within hours of each other as weekend storms flooded Tennessee and killed 30 in three states.
In Tennessee alone, 20 have died, with the most recent death reported Thursday. Hardest hit was the Nashville area, home to about 1 million people, where record rains flooded hundreds of homes and forced thousands to evacuate. Many are heading back to work, and power has been restored to most areas as the floodwaters recede.
Joseph Formosa Jr., 88, had worked hard all his life in his family's produce business so he and his wife, Bessie, 78, could live independently and dine out often in retirement. They were driving to dinner Sunday when their car was swept away.
Joseph Formosa III said he called his father Sunday morning, warning him to stay in their house near the overflowing Harpeth River.
"Dad in his later years was tremendously hard of hearing and hard-headed, also," he said. "The neighbors seem to think they were just going out to dinner and were impervious to what was going on outside."
As those who died are laid to rest, cleaning crews have fanned out across the city to haul away water-stained furniture and debris from the streets. Mayor Karl Dean said Thursday that the Cumberland River has dipped below flood stage a day earlier than expected, going down to 39.5 feet. But recovery could take weeks, especially in the city's iconic country music and tourism industry. Damage was estimated at more than $1 billion.
And the worst may not be over for the region: rural western Kentucky was bracing for what could be the worst flooding there in 200 years.
Another 10 people were killed in storms in Kentucky and Mississippi. Authorities are searching for at least four more people missing and feared dead in Tennessee and Kentucky.
Families of the victims say the fast-moving waters flooded homes and roads so quickly that in many cases, there was no time to prepare or escape. Others simply underestimated the danger.