NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Cumberland River finally began receding Tuesday, exposing mud-caked homes and submerged cars as officials searched door-to-door for more victims of a record-busting flash flood and weekend storm already blamed for nearly 30 deaths.

No new fatalities were reported Tuesday and it was unclear whether anyone remained missing.

The weekend deluge swept many motorists to their deaths even after forecasters and Nashville’s mayor warned people not to drive. But staying put carried frightening consequences for others as the swollen Cumberland and its tributaries started pouring into thousands of homes.

“I kept watching TV and (Mayor) Karl Dean was saying stay put, don’t drive,” Nashville resident Cheri Newlin said. Police eventually told Newlin to evacuate on Monday, but by then, the water was so close that she had to flee by boat, leaving her three cats behind. She is now at a shelter and hasn’t been able to get back to her house to check on her pets and assess damage.

Tuesday, the flash floods were blamed in the deaths of 17 people in Tennessee alone, including nine in Nashville. At least nine people died in vehicles in Tennessee.

Others were found in their homes or yards, including an elderly couple discovered in their Nashville home. A 21-year-old Nashville resident died when he tried to wade in front of his home but got swept away in the current.

Sections of downtown and some of Music City’s popular tourist attractions remained flooded Tuesday, including the Grand Ole Opry House and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Full damage estimates were unavailable, but the Opryland Hotel alone suffered more than $75 million in damage; it will be closed for three to six months.

The storm dumped more than a foot of rain from Saturday to Sunday, sending floodwaters rising rapidly in the middle of the night.

Residents in some of the hardest hit areas said they didn’t know if they should flee or stick it out for fear that if they left their homes, they would be swept away by the muddy waters that turned streets into virtual rivers.

“We had less than an hour to get out,” said Amanda Fatherree. She left her home on Nashville’s west side Sunday after her mother yelled that the Harpeth River, normally located a quarter-mile away, had crept up to her back porch.

Officials said they made the right call to advise people to stay inside, pointing to a higher number of deaths on the roads and outside than in homes.

“At this point I’m not going to second-guess and say what should or could have been done differently,” Mayor Dean said Tuesday.

Hundreds of people had been rescued by boat and canoe from their flooded homes over the past few days. Those rescue operations wound down in Nashville on Tuesday. Police spokeswoman Rachel Vance said rescuers were going door-to-door in flooded areas to search for more drowning victims.

More than 13.5 inches of rainfall were recorded in Nashville on Saturday and Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, more than double the previous two-day record.

“You could tell as Saturday went along that this was a totally different event than normal,” Dean said Tuesday. “And of course it was very clear by Sunday that we were in a very serious situation.”


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