U.S. storm death toll reaches 24

May 3, 2010 at 10:24 PM
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NASHVILLE, May 3 (UPI) -- A massive storm system was responsible for at least 24 deaths in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky, officials said Monday.

The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal reported 16 deaths had been recorded in Tennessee since Friday, including eight in Nashville, where blocks of the downtown neighborhood were evacuated Monday as the Cumberland River inundated streets. Twenty-two thousand people were without power, the newspaper said.

The Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader reported authorities confirmed Monday four storm-related deaths in Kentucky, where a state of emergency was declared for 40 counties.

The deaths of four people in Mississippi were attributed to tornadoes and other storms.

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen requested federal recovery assistance and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said initial damage estimates were at least $6 million.

"We're going to need a lot of help over these weeks ahead to get out of this," The (Nashville) Tennessean quoted Bredesen as saying after a helicopter ride to survey the damage.

In a bit of good news, the National Weather Service said the Cumberland River would peak at 52.5 feet in Nashville and was to begin falling Monday night instead of Tuesday night.

The storms moved into Georgia Monday and heavy rains delayed flights at Atlanta's airport and made for a tough morning commute in the city, CNN reported.

Meanwhile Arkansas farmers and extension agents were assessing the damage left by the weekend's storms. University of Arkansas agriculture officials said some newly planted fields were under water.

"We have thousands of acres flooded," said Rick Thompson, Poinsett County extension staff chairman for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Two days of rains turned roads into rivers, swamped thousands of cars and submerged entire neighborhoods throughout the Nashville region, The Tennessean said.

Dozens of truckers and motorists were stranded on Interstate 40 in Tennessee because of flooding, CNN said.

City officials said a water treatment plant was being closed and a levee along the Cumberland had sprung a leak. Sandbagging efforts were under way in Nashville and Jackson.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said an aerial survey indicated damage was worse than he had previously thought.

"This situation is going to require a very large recovery process," Dean said. "The magnitude of the damage to our community was much more than what I expected. ... The safety of some of our infrastructure is questionable."

More than 13 inches of rain fell in a two-day period, triggering floods across middle Tennessee officials called the worst in several decades.

Even the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency's new command center in Nashville had some flooding.

About 22,000 people remain without electric power statewide -- more than half of them in Nashville.

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