Rains that are almost biblical, heat waves that don’t end, tornadoes that strike in savage swarms—there’s been a change in the weather lately. What’s going on?
The weekend forecast for Nashville, Tennessee, called for two to four inches of rain. But by the afternoon of Saturday, May 1, 2010, parts of the city had seen more than six inches, and the rain was still coming down in sheets.
Mayor Karl Dean was in the city’s Emergency Communications Center monitoring the first reports of flash flooding when something on a TV screen caught his eye. It was a live shot of cars and trucks on Interstate 24 being swamped by a tributary of the Cumberland River southeast of the city. Floating past them in the slow lane was a 40-foot-long portable building from the Lighthouse Christian School.
"We’ve got a building running into cars," the TV anchorman was saying.
Dean had been in the “war room” for hours. But when he saw the building floating down the highway, he says, “it became very clear to me what an extreme situation we had on our hands." Soon 911 calls were coming in from every part of the city. Police, fire, and rescue teams were dispatched in boats. One crew in a skiff headed out to I-24 to pluck the driver of an 18-wheeler from the chest-high water. Other teams pulled families off rooftops and workers from flooded warehouses. Still, 11 people died in the city that weekend.
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