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The Nashville May Day Flood of 2010 - Keeping Things in Perspective

As a departure from my usual financial topics, this post briefly talks about the flood that we in Middle Tennessee suffered through over the weekend. This was my first flood, and I hope my last. It’s one of those things you hear about on the news, that happens to other people somewhere else. And then one day you’re standing in eight inches of water.

The perspective I have gained from my very first flood is one of relief. So many people have suffered greater damages than my family did. Many lost their entire homes or businesses and are homeless. It will take months and many thousands of dollars to recover. In downtown Nashville, a rich history of country music has lost many irreplaceable relics at the museums and the Grand Ole Opry; the Gaylord Opryland Hotel was flooded and evacuated; and hundreds of people living near the Cumberland River found their houses completely overwhelmed by record-high flood levels.

In comparison, down here in Spring Hill about 25 miles to the south, I suffered only a few thousand dollars worth of destroyed flooring in my office and library and a broken garage door opener - not big deals at all. I did not lose any books or furniture, making me one of the lucky ones. I also discovered that I have incredible neighbors and friends, many of whom sprang into action and helped us save furniture and books and get the water out of the house quickly.

For anyone who thinks they are not at risk, be aware that this can happen to anyone. And as one of my neighbors observed, having three inches or 15 inches of water costs the same to fix. In my case, our house sits about 75 feet from a small water run-off ditch that is normally (like today) about three to four feet wide. The chances of it ever moving uphill to the edge of my daylight basement office and library seemed remote. But the 15 inches of rain we had in two days overwhelmed our systems, and the run-off surpassed the capacity of our little stream. It expanded to more than 75 feet across and rose about five feet, spanning my entire driveway. This combined with runoff from the front of the house, and eventually there was nowhere else for the water to go except into my rooms.

As big a shock as this was, it was also a wake-up call. Putting irreplaceable books on the bottom shelf isn’t a good idea, and having a back-up plan for any essential property is just basic smart planning. This community has suffered horribly and will take months to recover. The tourism business is devastated, not to mention the effects of flooding on so many families that lost everything.

Perspective. My losses and the cost and inconvenience are so minor that it hardly even matters. We were lucky to be safe, secure, without even one day of loss of utilities and clean drinking water. To those who suffered truly devastating losses, my thoughts are with you.