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Nashville flooding turns deadly after severe storms tear across South

By Mary Gilbert, Accuweather.com & UPI Staff
Nashville flooding turns deadly after severe storms tear across South
Flooding in Tennessee caused road closures and street damage. Photo courtesy of Mt. Juliet Police Department/Twitter

March 28 (UPI) --

At least four people died in Nashville due to flooding caused by strong storms that whipped through Tennessee over the weekend.

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Metro Nashville Police Department said Douglas Hammond, 65, drowned Sunday morning near the Nashboro golf course after being swept away on exiting his vehicle.

Sunday night, officials identified a second drowning victim as 70-year-old Garry Cole of South Nashville who was found dead that morning in a Honda sedan that had been submerged in flood waters from a creek near a Wal-Mart.

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During a noon press conference, MNPD Chief John Drake said two others, a 46-year-old woman and a 64-year-old man, were found dead at a homeless camp near Edmondson Park. Their identities have not been released.

"We send our deepest sympathies to the loved ones of the four Nashvillians who died in last night's flooding," Nashville Mayor John Cooper said in a statement. "Metro's first responders have worked tirelessly following the city's second-highest-ever two-day rainfall, which flooded neighborhoods across the city."

Cooper said he signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency due to the flooding in Nashville to secure federal resources.

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Parts of the South, which have endured multiple severe weather outbreaks in March, were beaten with damaging wind gusts, hail and tornadoes over the weekend, with Nashville being one of the hardest hit regions.

Nashville recorded an astounding 5.75 inches of rainfall Saturday night, making it the wettest March day on record for the city, as well as the fourth-wettest day of all time, according to the NWS.

However, it caused flooding overnight and prompted flash flood warnings to be issued that spanned more than half of Tennessee, includinga life-threatening flash flood warning for the Metro Nashville area as well as Brentwood, Franklin and Mount Juliet.

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Several waterways across the Nashville area rose to moderate or major flood stage. In southeastern Nashville, Mill Creek crested at 20.85 feet on Sunday, its second-highest stage on record, according to NWS.

Meanwhile, Harpeth River, near Franklin, crested at 31 feet on Sunday evening, which was the fourth highest on record, the NWS said.

Flood waters caused an apartment building in the southeastern part of Nashville to partially collapsed, trapping at least five people were in the area as fire rescue units struggled against "swift water" to reach them, according to local media.

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There were also reports across the same part of the city of people "clinging to trees," desperate to get to higher ground to avoid floodwaters, according to the NWS.

There were also reports of flooded roadways and homes as well as water rescues and parts of Interstate 24 were completely underwater overnight, leading to closures and significant backups on open portions of the roadway.

Throughout Williamson County there were more than 55 road closures due to the flooding, according to the county's Emergency Management Agency.

Crews from the Nashville Fire Department and Nashville Emergency Operations Center said via Twitter that they responded "all over the county to those impacted by severe weather" on Saturday night.

On Sunday morning, the departments announced a total of 251 incidents overnight with 71 patients needing to be transported as well as 34 water-related rescues.

Police in Mount Juliet, Tenn., even deployed an armored rescue vehicle to reach people trapped in flooded cars.

Severe weather and flooding reports, however, began streaming in earlier Saturday after strong thunderstorms began to develop over portions of the state and Kentucky.

Severe thunderstorms continued to erupt through Saturday afternoon and hail reports started to roll in across Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia. Multiple cars were damaged by hail up to 2 inches in diameter in Carroll County, Virginia.

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The severe weather in Johnson City, Tenn., delayed a football game Saturday afternoon between East Tennessee State University and Western California University by at least an hour and a half as hail pelted the field.

NASCAR announced that the Cup Series and Camping World Truck Series races that were initially scheduled for Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol. Tenn., would be postponed until Monday.

By Saturday evening, a new batch of severe storms exploded from northeastern Texas, through Arkansas and into western Tennessee. Out of these storms came several reports of large hail, including at least one instance of hail 3 inches in diameter in Lonoke County, Arkansas.

The tornado threat across the region began to ramp up early Saturday evening. Tornado watches were in effect beginning Saturday evening from eastern Texas to northern Alabama and the western half of Tennessee. For several hours Saturday night, over 7.3 million people were under tornado watches.

There were a total of 16 tornado reports submitted to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center. These reports stretched along a focused corridor from northeastern Texas, through Arkansas into western Tennessee.

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Damage to homes and other structures, as well as downed trees and power lines were reported as a result of these possible tornadoes. Fortunately, no fatalities or injuries have been widely reported as a result of these potential twisters as of early Sunday morning.

"In the immediate wake of the cold front that triggered all of the severe weather and flooding, much calmer conditions will settle over the Mississippi and Tennessee valleys and Southeast," AccuWeather Meteorologist Renee Duff said.

Dry weather later Sunday through Tuesday across these areas will be just what residents need to recover. However, even amidst the dry weather, there can be some risks.

"Into Tuesday, temperatures at night will be on the chilly side, generally in the 30s and 40s F, which can make it difficult for those left without power or proper shelter to stay warm," Duff added.

Saturday's damaging weather comes only days after Thursday's destructive event that impacted a similar area. At least six people were killed after long-lived tornadoes touched down and caused devastation across parts of Alabama and western Georgia on Thursday and Thursday night.

In total, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center reported a total of 23 tornadoes with one in Mississippi, five in Georgia and 17 in Alabama.

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Just a week earlier, a tornado outbreak spawned dozens of twisters, again with Alabama placed squarely in the crosshairs. Parts of Louisiana and Mississippi also faced heavy damage from violent storms.

Despite widespread damage, no fatalities were reported. Officials and forecasters credited communities for being prepared and hunkering down during storm and tornado warnings for the miraculous outcome.

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