Tenn. flooding leaves muddy mess behind

NASHVILLE, Tenn. —The Cumberland River finally began receding Tuesday, exposing mud-caked homes and submerged cars as officials searched door to door for more victims of a record-busting flash flood and weekend storm already blamed for nearly 30 deaths.

No new fatalities were reported Tuesday and it was unclear whether anyone remained missing.

The weekend deluge swept many motorists to their deaths even after forecasters and Nashville's mayor warned people not to drive. But staying put carried frightening consequences for others as the swollen Cumberland and its tributaries started pouring into thousands of houses.

"I kept watching TV, that was my source, and (Mayor) Karl Dean was saying stay put, don't drive," Nashville resident Cheri Newlin said. Police eventually told Newlin to leave on Monday, but by then, the water was so close that she had to flee by boat, leaving her three cats behind. She is now at a shelter and hasn't been able to get back to her house to check on her pets and assess damage.

Sections of downtown and some of Music City's popular tourist attractions remained flooded Tuesday, including the Grand Ole Opry House and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Full damage estimates were unavailable, but the Opryland Hotel alone suffered more than $75 million in damage; it will be closed for three to six months.

Residents in some of the hardest hit areas said they didn't know if they should flee or stick it out for fear that if they left their homes, they would be swept away by the muddy waters that turned streets into virtual rivers.

"We had less than an hour to get out," said Amanda Fatherree. She left her home on Nashville's west side Sunday after the Harpeth River, normally located a quarter-mile away, had crept up to her back porch.

Robert Strunk, a retired computer designer who now works at the Opry House, wasn't told to leave until nearly midnight Saturday, and by then, it was too late to drive. Instead, he waded through water up to his thighs carrying his two dogs.