- Associated Press - Sunday, March 28, 2021

Heavy rains across Tennessee flooded homes and roads, prompting officials to rescue dozens of people from houses, apartments and vehicles. Authorities said four bodies were found Sunday in the flood’s aftermath.

A flash flood emergency was declared overnight by the National Weather Service in Nashville for the city, as well as Brentwood, Franklin and Mt. Juliet.

“Major flash flooding is occurring with numerous roads, interstates, and homes flooded with water rescues ongoing!” the agency tweeted. “Please stay home and do not travel!”

The Nashville Fire Department said it rescued at least 130 people from cars, apartments and homes, while about 40 dogs were moved from a Nashville boarding kennel, Camp Bow Wow, to another location. To the south in Williamson County, over 34 swift water rescues were carried out, said county Emergency Management Agency Director Todd Horton during a media briefing. As many as 18 homes in one neighborhood had to be evacuated.

A portion of Interstate 40 was temporarily shut down due to high water that stranded a vehicle and its driver. The driver was able to get out of the vehicle and to safety, the Tennessee Highway Patrol in Nashville tweeted.

Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake said three bodies were found after Seven Mile Creek flooded. The body of a 70-year-old man whose car was submerged in the creek was found behind a store, and the bodies of a 46-year-old woman and a 64-year-old man were found in a wooded area near a homeless camp.

Drake said a 65-year-old man’s body was found on a golf course. Police said on Twitter earlier it’s believed the man tried to get out of a car that ran off a road into a culvert before being swept away by high water. 

Nashville Mayor John Cooper said at a news conference that first responders were walking creek beds Sunday and working with the American Red Cross to canvass affected neighborhoods.

Nashville recorded 5.75 inches (14.6 centimeters) of rain Saturday, the weather service said, setting a new record for the most rainfall in the city on a March day. It was also the fourth-wettest day in the city’s history. Almost another inch of rain fell after midnight.

Ebony Northern said heavy rain started pouring around midnight and a normally tame creek running through her Nashville apartment complex swiftly rose. Within an hour or so, she could see some first-floor units in other parts of the complex being flooded. She said people evacuated to the second floor and she also heard calls for boats come in over the fire department scanner. 

“The units are a mess. Some of the outside air conditioning units have floated off,” she said Sunday morning.

She said the Red Cross had arrived to assist her neighbors.

At least one church canceled in-person Palm Sunday services. The New Tribe Church in Mt. Juliet said on Facebook that knee-deep water flooded the building, busted out the glass of its front entrance and sent chairs through a hallway.

“I am smiling but our hearts are devastated,” Pastor Jarod Smith said at the start of an online service. “We are standing in our worship center and there’s just not enough words to describe what it actually looks like.”

Many rivers and creeks were at or near their highest level since 2010, according to the weather service. A flooding event in May 2010 caused 21 deaths in Tennessee and an estimated $1.5 billion in damage in Nashville.

While there was no longer any precipitation falling, flooding remained a threat, Brittney Whitehead, a meteorologist in the Nashville office of the National Weather Service, said Sunday afternoon. 

“Over the next couple of days, we’ll see some of our rivers continue to rise. And we’ve got several flood warnings out for those areas that we expect to remain high, at least into Monday,” she said. 

Major flooding was forecast on two rivers. The weather service predicted the Harpeth River near Kingston Springs, west of Nashville, would crest about 20 feet (about 6.1 meters) above flood stage on Sunday night, while the Duck River at Centerville would crest about 17 feet above flood stage Monday morning.

Eight people and a dog stayed overnight at Brentwood City Hall after flooding from the Little Harpeth River forced residents from their homes, City Manager Kirk Bednar said. Hotels in the area were booked up, in part due to spring break, he said.

Fifteen people were rescued and two were taken to the hospital at the City View Apartments in south Nashville, where the lower level of the building was flooded in waist-deep water. The fire department responded to reports of a collapse at the building following a mudslide, news outlets reported. The two hospitalized patients had injuries not considered to be life-threatening.

Drake, the Nashville police chief, also said an officer on his way home was hospitalized after his vehicle was caught in floodwaters. The officer got out of the car and was found clinging to a tree when he was rescued.

March historically is a turbulent month for weather in Tennessee. Last March, tornadoes killed more than 20 people and destroyed more than 140 buildings in Middle Tennessee. 

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