When Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast and Flooded New Orleans, my mother-in-law watched the news with rapt attention. She was strolling Bourbon Street with her husband and my nephew just days before the storm. Like everyone who watched, I ached for all those who were lost and chaos that ensued, but I didn’t have the personal connection.
The flooding in Nashville while on a slightly different scale, impacts me on a more personal level. I’ve been to Nashville three times. I was JUST there in the beginning of February for a conference at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Opryland is now under ten feet of water. The pictures and the news stories are jarring.
In 2003, I organized a trip for a group of Adults with Albinism. We stayed near Opryland and took a fabulous walking tour of Nashville, that included Centennial Park, Fort Nashboro and First Avenue. We ate dinner at the food court of Opry Mills and enjoyed a cruise down the Cumberland on the General Jackson Riverboat. All of these areas have been affected by the floods.
I’ve returned twice since for Blissdom, a wonderful blogging conference. This last time Blissdom was held at Opryland. When I said I was going to Opryland, people rolled their eyes. “Have a guhd time y’all” they said. Opryland has a reputation for being a touch over the top, but honestly, I think it was a great place to hold a conference. It is the epitome of Southern hospitality and the lush gardens were a welcome respite from the raw New England Winter. Opryland was a back drop for such a wonderful event in my recent memory, it is hard to see the stories of the destruction.
I also think of the people of Nashville and their loss. So far, nineteen deaths have been directly attributed to the flood, but not everyone has been accounted for. Then there are the material losses. Most people don’t have flood insurance and flood damage is NOT covered under regular homeowners policies. That means a huge burden during already tough economic times. What about all the businesses? All the products lost? Facilities damaged? There will be some businesses that will not recover from this catastrophe.
Nashville is coming in to their busiest season for tourism. The long term economic impact of the floods, remains to be seen. According to the Tennessean, Opryland is home to twelve percent of Nashville’s hotel rooms that generate approximately one fifth of Nashville’s hotel tax revenue. Ouch! The Gaylord team is doing its best to reschedule smaller events with other Nashville hotels, but Opryland is one of, if not the, largest facility in Nashville. There are some events that will have to be cancelled or moved to other cities. As a former event planner, that gives me a headache just thinking about it. Other groups with events that are relatively close, but still months away are in a holding pattern until the water recedes and officials have a chance to assess the damage.
All of this said, not ALL of Nashville is under water. The airport opened yesterday and only Opryland and one other smaller hotel (a Hampton Inn) are closed due to the flooding. The honky tonks and the clubs on Second Avenue are open for business. I guess they really have a lot to sing about now.
If you want to help, you can make a donation of the Red Cross Chapters of Middle Tennessee.
If you want to help long term, put a note on your calendar to check out Nashville mid-summer, and into the fall. I bet you’ll find some awesome deals to be had as tourism officials work to remind the world that Nashville survived the rising water.
A huge shout out to the Tennessean.com for truly excellent coverage of the floods. Information was readily available and well organized. It has to be hard to report on the destruction, but their team has done a great job.