NASHVILLE, Tenn. — President
Obama declared 11 counties in Tennessee major disaster areas May 6, bringing
the total number of statewide counties receiving the designation to 21 and
making it clear that the record flood damage stretches well beyond the
The counties span from West to Middle Tennessee and the list likely will grow
in the coming days. The designation makes homeowners — many of whom had no
flood insurance — eligible for federal aid.
The Tennessee death toll from the May 1-2 flood rose to 21 Thursday when a
Shelby County death was determined to be flood-related. More than 13 inches of
rain fell during the two-day period in the Nashville area, flooding streams and
rivers and damaging thousands of homes. Some have called it a “once every 500
(Donations for disaster relief can be made on the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s
The flood was so immense that Thursday — four days after the rain stopped —
dozens of roads throughout West and Middle Tennessee remained closed. Yet even
when the water does recede, some of the roads will remain impassable because of
major damage to the pavement. Four counties remained under flood warnings
The flooding and road closures in Montgomery County have prevented the Cumberland
Baptist Association, which is based in Clarksville about an hour northwest of
Nashville, from getting a full assessment of the damage to its area. Officials
with the association estimate there are hundreds of houses in Montgomery County
alone with flood damage. The county is one of the 21 that have been named a
The Cumberland River that did so much damage to Nashville also slices through
Clarksville. It was still 10 feet above flood level mid-day Thursday in
“Every major road in Clarksville has been flooded and we only had one street
where we could reach downtown,” Dennis Pulley, associational missionary for the
Cumberland Baptist Association, which is made up of about 50 churches, told
Baptist Press. “The traffic has been horrendous. Any time you try and go some
place, it’s a nightmare, like a parking lot.”
The river is falling, Pulley said, but “not as rapidly as we would like.”
The Cumberland Baptist Association and associations like
it throughout the area have listed on their website ways people can help. The
associations also have online forms for flood victims requesting help.
Nashville Mayor Karl Dean estimated the city suffered at least $1 billion in
damage. But David Acres, director of disaster relief ministries for the
Tennessee Baptist Convention, said the flood is far from a Nashville-only
“You’ve got so many different areas that have been affected,” he told BP.
Churches across the region are stepping up to the challenge. Two churches —
Judson Baptist Church in Nashville and Poplar Heights Baptist Church in Jackson
— will host disaster relief feeding units that will prepare around 10,000 and
5,000-7,000 meals a day, respectively.
Southern Baptist disaster relief units
will prepare the food and the American Red Cross will take the meals into the
The flood has provided some unique opportunities for churches. Two Rivers
Baptist in Nashville will host the Grand Ole Opry May 14-15 after the Opry
House was flooded, interim pastor Ed Stetzer told church members in an e-mail
Thursday. The church has “been assured that the content will be appropriate for
our setting,” the e-mail said. Two Rivers is located less than a mile from the
Opry House. Two Rivers also is hosting the final weeks of the school year for
Donelson Christian Academy’s middle and high school grades, as well as the
command post for Samaritan’s Post.
Acres and a crew accessed damage to Franklin Thursday and will look at the
damage to Nashville Friday.
Elsewhere in the state, the Baptist and Reflector newsjournal reported:
- The People’s Church in Franklin provided an American Red Cross Shelter May
1-4. The first night the shelter housed 11 families.
- Bellevue Baptist Church in Nashville began serving flood victims May 4 in
coordination with the mayor’s office, Tennessee Baptist disaster relief and the
Nashville Baptist Association. The church had distributed about 250 family food
boxes from Second Harvest Food Bank. Church members also prepared and served
three meals a day beginning May 5 and distributed meals in communities. On May
5 the church served dinner to about 100 people. Bellevue Baptist pastor Mike
Shelton said about half of the members of the church saw flood damage to their
homes “but everybody’s safe as far as I know.” The church draws about 425 to
its two Sunday morning worship services.
- Three Baptist churches in Goodlettsville and Hendersonville — both located
just north of Nashville — were flooded. Madison Creek Baptist Church in
Goodlettsville received about four feet of water on its lower level, pastor Jim
Ryan said. New Hope Baptist Church in Hendersonville had about three feet of
water in its sanctuary and one foot in the rest of the building. Bledsoe Creek
Baptist Church in Bethpage also was flooded. “I’ve seen tears shed,” said Mike
Pennington, director of missions of the Bledsoe Baptist Association, based in
Gallatin. “People put so much effort into their churches.”
- First Baptist Church in Millington — 20 miles north of Memphis — began
serving as an American Red Cross shelter May 3 when it housed 98 people despite
the fact the church was flooded by a roof leak. Water entered the church’s
foyer and flooded the 1,650-seat sanctuary, said pastor David Leavell, but the
rest of the six-year-old facility was dry, so the church responded to the need.
Also Faith Heritage Baptist Church and Faith Heritage Christian Academy, both
in Millington, were flooded.
- A church near Millington, Crossway Baptist Church in Brighton, was flooded by
about four feet of water. The church, though, did have flood insurance, said
pastor Greg Gilbreath. “If the insurance company rebuilds the building we’ll
still be without a lot of things that we need,” he said.
The following counties have been declared disaster areas: Carroll, Cheatham,
Crockett, Davidson, Decatur, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Haywood,
Henderson, Hickman, Houston, Madison, McNairy, Montgomery, Obion, Perry,
Shelby, Tipton and Williamson.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. With reporting
by Connie Bushey, news editor of the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal of the
Tennessee Baptist Convention. Donate to Tennessee flood disaster relief at
www.TnBaptist.org, or by sending a check payable to TBC, P.O. Box 728, Brentwood,
TN 37024. Be sure to include the designation “TN Floods 2010” on the check.
Learn ways you can help in the Nashville area at
www.nashvillebaptistassociation.org. Learn ways you can help in the Clarksville
area at www.cumberlandba.org.)