It rained. And rained. And rained some more.
Nashville took in over 13 inches of water in a 48-hour period in May, and some areas of the region were swamped with as much as 20 inches. It was more than the rivers and streams could handle, and by May 3, the drainage system was overflowing. The stage and much of the floor seating at the Grand Ole Opry House was covered, water seeped into one room at the Country Music Hall of Fame, LP Field — the site of the CMA Music Festival — became a swamp, and an instrument storage unit was drowned, destroying guitars and equipment owned by Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Toby Keith and Vince Gill, among others.
It took a while for people to notice outside of Middle Tennessee. The focus of the major news organizations at the time was on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. So Music City rolled up its sleeves and started digging out on its own.
The Nashville flood is No. 1 on the list as GAC concludes its countdown of the top country news stories of 2010.
The flood really was a whopper. The first floor of Kenny Chesney’s home was completely submerged, and water got into parts of the second floor as well. Opry member Jeannie Seely was forced out of her home when the Cumberland River overflowed. Julie Roberts was rescued from her house via boat. And Dierks Bentley Tweeted a now-familiar photo in which he battled water in his basement.
Even before the week was out, Nashville was holding hands as it started the rebuilding process. The Grand Ole Opry never missed a beat, hopping from venue to venue to venue while crews began airing out the show’s home venue and renovating the building. Strangers literally visited flooded neighborhoods with food plates or helping hands. And country’s stars stepped up in a big way.
Among the contributions of time and money:
• A WSMV telethon, “Working 4 You: Flood Relief With Vince Gill & Friends,” pulled in $1.7 million. Vince and Amy Grant kicked off the evening with a $100,000 donation, and Taylor Swift called in with a $500,000 pledge. Keith Urban, Buddy Jewell, Darius Rucker and Alison Krauss were just some of the acts who came forward on short notice to help the cause.
• Reba McEntire donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross.
• Lady Antebellum, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley led the charge in a GAC special, Music City Keep On Playin’ — A Benefit For Flood Relief, which raised at least $1.8 million. Brad and his wife, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, started the night off with a $100,000 donation as the event brought in acts from Nashville’s multitude of styles — contemporary Christian, Americana, blues, gospel, pop and country.
• Dolly Parton donated $250,000, collected through Dollywood and her Dixie Stampede.
• Tim McGraw and Faith Hill organized Nashville Rising, a concert that contributed more than $2 million to rebuilding efforts. They were joined in the event by about 20 acts, including Miranda Lambert, Jason Aldean, Carrie Underwood, LeAnn Rimes, Martina McBride, Blake Shelton, Trace Adkins, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus.
• Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood presented nine concerts in six days during December, raising more than $3.5 million. Steve Wariner guested, and the event helped demonstrate that Nashville as a whole is back on its feet, even though some of its citizens are still struggling to recover from life-changing setbacks.
Jeannie Seely eventually moved back into her house. And the Grand Ole Opry House reopened in a spectacular manner, with Brad Paisley and Little Jimmy Dickens leading a slew of members in “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.” Many features of the building were upgraded, from the dressing rooms to the facility’s technology. The flood was devastating for many, but not debilitating for most.
“There’s a lot of people still hurting,” Brad said at the reopening. “It’ll take ‘em a long time. But I think this place did not feel sorry for itself — the city, I mean. It did not for a second sit around and boo hoo. It was ready to go to work. The artists did, the media did, the Opry did, and the city has as well.”