NASHVILLE, Tenn. – At least four people were killed, and swift-water rescue crews plucked more than 130 people from cars, apartments and homes as devastating storms hammered the South.
An overnight deluge pounded parts of Tennessee with 9 inches of rain. Nashville International Airport recorded 7 inches as of 5 a.m. Sunday. The 5.75 inches of rain Saturday were the most to fall in the city on a March day.
“The rainfall we got yesterday and overnight made this one of the wettest 24-hour periods in Nashville’s history,” National Weather Service meteorologist Sam Shamburger said.
North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were among the likely targets of the storms, which could roll as far north as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, forecasters said. Gusting winds and tornadoes, hail and flooding were possible, AccuWeather said.
“There is a lot of wind energy for storms to tap into,” AccuWeather meteorologist Jake Sojda said. “It won’t take much to get wind gusts to 70 mph or perhaps more with the strongest storms.”
Multiple tornadoes touched down in Alabama last week, the second line of severe storms to slam that state in two weeks. Mississippi and Tennessee also were hard hit by the wild, dangerous spring weather.
Tennessee drew the most powerful storms over the weekend. Vehicles submerged in floodwaters halfway up the doors sat abandoned on I-24 in Nashville. A portion of I-40 was shut down because of high waters.
Metro Police reported a presumed flood death on a golf course Sunday morning. A 65-year-old man’s car ran off the road into a culvert, and when he exited the vehicle, he was swept away by high water, police said.
The body of a man whose car was submerged in a creek was found behind a store, according to Metro Police. He was 70. A 64-year-old man and a 46-year-old woman died near a homeless camp after flooding swept through the area, police said.
Even though the rain had stopped by Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service said flooding remained a threat.
“Over the next couple of days, we’ll see some of our rivers continue to rise,” NWS meteorologist Brittney Whitehead said. “And we’ve got several flood warnings out for those areas that we expect to remain high, at least into Monday.”
Nashville Mayor John Cooper said first responders walked creek beds Sunday and worked with the American Red Cross to canvass affected neighborhoods. South of Nashville, in Williamson County, more than 50 roads were closed Sunday morning because of flooding, according to the county’s Emergency Management Agency.
“Folks there is still MAJOR flash flooding ongoing tonight across Middle Tennessee – please do not drive through any flooded roadways! ” the weather service in Nashville tweeted Sunday.
Carolyn Miller said some of her neighbors on the Harpeth River had to be rescued by emergency crews overnight as waters encroached on their homes. Her yard was littered with debris Sunday morning. She said neighbors began texting about their difficulties around midnight.
“Once people got stuck, we were able to tell the police and tell them where to go,” she said. “With any emergency situation, you count on those around you. I wouldn’t want to be in a different neighborhood.”
The Nashville Fire Department said crews responded overnight to an apartment building that had been compromised because of a mudslide. Two people were taken to a hospital for noncritical injuries.
“There were multiple people unable to leave the building on their own due to flooding in the area,” Fire Department spokesperson Kendra Loney said. “At least 15 persons (were rescued) from that building.”
In Rutherford County, county fire crews performed numerous rescues Sunday, the county Emergency Management Agency reported.
“It’s been a long night,” Rutherford County Public Safety Director Chris Clark said.
Contributing: Yihyun Jeong, Cole Villena, Duane W. Gang and Andy Humbles Brinley Hineman, Nashville Tennessean; The Associated Press