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Nashville shows its resolve after massive flooding

Courtesy Grand Ole Opry

When more than a foot of rain fell on Nashville and central Tennessee May 2-3, the stage of the “Grand Ole Opry” was under 2 feet of water. On May 4, Opry performers, including Marty Stuart and longtime Opry star Jeannie Seely, who lost her car and home to the flood, were back on stage at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium.

In true the-show-must-go-on fashion, the Opry, which is marking its 85th anniversary this year, quickly found alternative venues, including the historic Ryman Auditorium, its former home for many years, and a local church, and didn’t miss a show.

“It was really incredible they were able to make this happen,” said Heather Middleton, director of public relations for the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Gaylord Opryland Hotel, located in the same complex as the Grand Ole Opry House along the Cumberland River in northeast Nashville, was not as fortunate. The massive 2,900-room hotel had to evacuate 1,500 guests at midnight Sunday and transport them to a high school. Up to 10 feet of water had pooled in the hotel’s famous glass-ceiling atriums and in more than 100 hotel rooms.

The adjacent Opry Mills shopping center, home to Bass Pro Shop, was also heavily damaged. Although at press time Opry officials hoped to be back in its home in June, it was expected to be several months before the resort hotel or the shopping center are reopened.

The Nashville Symphony Orchestra also has had to relocate to alternate venues after the basement of its home, the downtown Schermerhorn Center, was flooded, damaging rehearsal halls and dressing rooms.

The nearby Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum also had water in its basement and a first floor theater, but its exhibits and artifacts were safely above the water on the second, third and fourth levels, and the museum was open again the weekend following the flood.

However, an especially heart-rendering loss were dozens of historic musical instruments belonging to the Musicians Hall of Fame, which were in storage as the hall sought a new home after being evicted from its former location for construction of the city’s new convention center. The instruments ranged from Jimi Hendrix’s 1966 Fender to the bass Lighting Chance used for Hank Williams’ final recording session to a guitar used in recording the theme for the television series “MASH.”

The Music Valley Wax Museum across the street from the Opryland Hotel was heavily damaged and is closed indefinitely. A nearby Holiday Inn Express was the only other Nashville hotel closed, while the other clubs and venues in the Music Valley were open, as were the clubs along downtown’s Printer’s Alley and the honky-tonks along Lower Broad.

“The honky-tonks never closed; they played through the flood,” said Middleton.

Although its offices did not have power for nearly a week, the CVB quickly jumped on the Internet to let people know what was happening.

“The website and social media such as Facebook and Twitter were definitely the best way of communicating with people with the most up-to-date information,” said Middleton.

And that information was that “we are still up and running,” she said. Several local musicians recorded free public service announcements that were being aired on more than 850 radio stations around the country with the same message.

“Nashville’s hospitality industry remained largely intact while record-breaking rains fell over the city,” said CVB president Butch Spyridon. “Our hallmark attractions and hotels are open, and our world famous hospitality is ready to welcome guests.”

The CVB also set up an extensive flood information section on its website that provided information about the status of attractions, events, music, restaurants and hotel availability.

However, Middleton said she expected the site would not be needed by June. She suggested groups go to or call 800-657-6910.

A week after the flooding, the CVB’s website home page proudly and defiantly proclaimed, “We are Music City, we are open. Come hell or high water, Music City will do what it does best. You can still hear the songs of the city pumping out of every corner. Sing along, dance ‘til it hurts and party Music City-style. We are.”

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