NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Heavy rain across Tennessee flooded homes and roads late Saturday into early Sunday, prompting officials to rescue many people from houses, apartments and vehicles as a line of severe storms crossed the state.
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 and Emergency Operations Center tweeted that it was responding to people in need all over Davidson County. To the south in Williamson County, over 34 swift water rescues were carried out, said county EMA Director Todd Horton during a media briefing.
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.
Nashville recorded 5.75 inches of rain on 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.
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.
Eight people and a dog were staying 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.
As Fox 17 reported live from the apartments around 3 a.m, Michael Harvell was treading through the water in a stairwell and said he was looking for his car keys. He used a hammer to break down the door of the flooded apartment where his family was staying inside, and had lost the keys in the race to save them.
“They were standing on the furniture,” Harvell said. “I had to break the door down to get them out.”
Reporter Justin McFarland was continuing his live report when a few minutes later, a Fox 17 viewer who lived in the apartment complex showed up. The viewer told McFarland that he had just found a set of keys in the parking lot.
Turns out, the keys belonged to Harvell. A wave of relief washed over his face and he gave the viewer a fist-bump. Harvell said he was most grateful that his family was safe.