Tennessean: Flooding didn't bring whining/looting or national news: Sen. Alexander says

Posted on May 10, 2010

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander told the Senate about Tennessee’s flooding plight this afternoon, letting them know that news about a bomber in Times Square, the Greek economic crisis and the BP oil spill wasn’t all that was going on.

“There is no bigger, not more heart-wrenching, no more inspiring story today than what happened in the 48 hours in Nashville on May 1st and 2nd over the weekend when two to four inches of rain was expected and up to 17 inches came,” Alexander said in the session broadcast on C-Span.

“As a result of that, from the Opryland Hotel outside Nashville to the Millington Naval Station near Memphis, all across Tennessee there have been devastating floods. It is, according to the weather service, a thousand-year flood.” 

Alexander said that besides other crises taking the spotlight, there’s another reason some in Congress seemed to know little about the situation. 

“The other reason we haven’t heard so much about it is this: Tennesseans have been busy cleaning up and helping each other, instead of complaining and looting. But people are hurt. Thousands of people are hurt, but they’re going about their business helping themselves and helping others in remarkable and inspiring ways.” 

The American Red Cross recorded more than 1,300 volunteers by Friday, he said, citing information from The Tennessean. 

“Whole congregations showed up on Sunday en masse at places like Cross Point Community Church, which has more than 1,600 members . . .," he said. 

“If you go through Nashville today all the way down to Memphis, you see thousands of front yards just littered with damage from the basements of homes. FEMA has been on the ground from the beginning and I thank them for their prompt response.” 

In the future, Alexander of Nashville, said he wants to make sure that the best possible job is done on handling floods, particularly having clear and correct information about the rising water that is broadly communicated. 

“We’ve learned how to do that with tornadoes. Using the media, we can tell you whether a tornado is coming across your house in fourteen minutes in a remarkable act of cooperation between the national weather service and the media broadcasters.”

That’s why he’s asked for the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee to look into it the issue, and perhaps hold a hearing on how well the Army Corps of Engineers and others are needed information. 

The National Weather Service makes the forecasts on river levels and potential flooding based on information from Corps’ dams, river gauges, local trained volunteers and professionals who monitor water levels on creeks and streams and expected rainfall. 

That information goes out via weather radios and websites, the media and local emergency services departments. 

“I would thank the Congress for approving my request over the last few years for additional funding that was not in the present budget to make two of the four dams on the Cumberland river safer.” 

Center Hill and Wolf Creek dams, both leaky and weakened from an eroding limestone base, are the ones that received funding as part of efforts to shore them up. They both lie upstream of Nashville and are capable, if they broke, of doing worse damage than occurred in the current flooding. 

“If they hadn’t been made safer, their water levels could have been lower and tons more water would have been poured into the Cumberland river creating millions of dollars more in damage—and perhaps lives,” Alexander said.