Flooding in East Nashville

History Under Water

Nashville is one of the country's fastest growing cities, but it is also one extremely vulnerable to flooding

Nashville, most specifically East Nashville, is notorious for flooding.

Tennessee itself is prone to flooding because of its numerous rivers and lakes. Hilly landscape can cause rivers and lakes to swell from runoff. Nashville and the Cumberland River sit in a “bowl” as Nashville sits lower than the rest of the state (around 600 ft above sea level). This makes it hard for water to drain or run off from Nashville locations when large amounts of rain come in short periods of time.

There are several notable floods throughout Nashville’s history, giving a sense of how Nashvillians have dealt with their natural environment. In November of 1912, a wall of the Nashville Reservoir ruptured causing twenty five million gallons of water to rush through the city. In 1927, the “Great Flood” devastated Nashville when over 10 inches of rain fell over the course of one week. The Cumberland River expanded to three miles wide at the peak of the flood, cresting at sixteen feet above flood stage. This resulted in two casualties and left 10,000 people homeless. After this flood, multiple dams were built along the Cumberland River. The most recent flood occurred in 2010, when thirteen inches of rain fell during a thirty-six-hour period, killing twenty six people and damaging 11,000 properties. The Cumberland River crested at fifty one feet, the highest crest on record since the river was dammed.

Flood prevention is an ongoing battle in Nashville. Climate change and a massive influx of people has made this more difficult. Former Mayor Meagan Barry proposed a $125 million flood wall that would protect downtown Nashville, but these measures were declined twice by the city council. The Metro Water Service is in the process of upgrading the storm water infrastructure, but this will take time and can only do so much to prevent floods.