NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A flash flood emergency was declared early Sunday by the National Weather Service in Nashville for the city and surrounding areas during severe storms that dropped heavy rain on western and central parts of the state.
Numerous water rescues were performed during the storms late Saturday and into Sunday morning, the agency said. The emergency included Brentwood, Franklin and Mt. Juliet, in addition to Nashville.
“Major flash flooding is occurring with numerous roads, interstates, and homes flooded with water rescues ongoing!” NWS Nashville tweeted. “Please stay home and do not travel!”
A portion of Interstate 40 was temporarily shut down due to high water that stranded a vehicle and its driver. The driver was able to get out of the vehicle and to safety, the Tennessee Highway Patrol tweeted.
Several photos and videos shared online and by news outlets showed high water on roads and throughout residential areas.
Fifteen people were rescued and two were taken to the hospital at the City View Apartments in Nashville, where the lower level of the building was flooded in waist-deep water. The fire department responded to reports of a collapse at the building following a mudslide, Fox 17 reported. The two hospitalized patients had injuries not considered to be life-threatening.
As the station reported live around 3 a.m, Michael Harvell was treading through the water in a stairwell and said he was looking for his car keys. He had used a hammer to break down the door of the flooded apartment where his family was staying inside, and had lost the keys in the race to save them.
“They were standing on the furniture,” Harvell said. “I had to break the door down to get them out.”
Reporter Justin McFarland was continuing his live report when a few minutes later, a Fox 17 viewer who lived in the apartment complex showed up. The viewer told McFarland that he had just found a set of keys in the parking lot.
Turns out, the keys belonged to Harvell. A wave of relief washed over his face and he gave the viewer a fist-bump. Harvell said he was most grateful that his family was safe.
Nashville recorded 5.75 inches (14.6 centimeters) of rain on Saturday, the weather service said, setting a new record for the most rain to fall in the city on a March day. It was also the fourth-wettest day in the city’s history.
Over 10,000 customers were without power in Tennessee, according to poweroutage.us, a utility tracking service. Nearly 11,000 customers were in the dark in Arkansas, where the same line of storms moved through earlier Saturday.