The rain began in the early morning hours of Saturday, May 1, cleansing a layer of spring pollen from car windshields as students slept or crammed for finals. By the time most Nashvillians stirred, the rain was falling in great unrelenting sheets.
I had planned to spend the weekend with friends at nearby Montgomery Bell State Park, but by 2 p.m. we opted to scotch the trip. Local weather alerts pre-empted the Kentucky Derby broadcast, businesses closed early and interstates clogged, and still the rain continued all night and Sunday morning and into the afternoon, when I opened my Vanderbilt email to read this stark phrase in a message from Provost Richard McCarty: “I have decided to cancel all exams scheduled for Monday, May 3.”
The flooding dumped more than 13 inches of rain in two days. On Saturday my colleague Nancy Wise, editor of Vanderbilt Engineering and Arts and Science magazines, was leaving Happy Tales, the Williamson County animal shelter where she volunteers. Her usual route was blocked by a police barricade. Nancy made a fateful decision to access an alternative route—and in an instant found her car nearly submerged in water. The car stalled. Nancy managed to push her car door open and waded through the water, purse on her shoulder. She walked into a drainage ditch and had to swim to safety.
Phillip Tucker, Vanderbilt Magazine’s associate editor, had a full house at his residence near Gaylord Opryland Hotel that weekend. Phillip’s sister, who has ALS, and brother-in-law are living with him while they renovate a condominium to accommodate Christy’s mobility needs. Their two dogs are also staying with Phillip, along with Phillip’s mother and her dachshund. On Sunday, May 2, Phillip got word that his house was in danger of flooding, and the whole household had to evacuate late that night. In the end Phillip’s house stayed dry, but many of his neighbors lost everything.
A few weeks before the flood, I had moved from my home in Bellevue to Hillsboro Village. My old neighborhood was hit hard, and for weeks as I drove out to check on my old house, I was stunned by the devastation. Volunteers helped haul the entire contents of flooded homes to the curb, creating mountains of sodden drywall and mildewing couches and waterlogged teddy bears.
Nashville received high marks from the national media for its “can-do” attitude after the flood, and Vanderbilt was a big part of the effort. Read a personal account of the flood.
© 2013 Vanderbilt University | Photography: PHILLIP TUCKER
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