On Saturday, May 1, and Sunday, May 2, 2010, back-to-back 500-year storms dumped well over a foot of rain on Nashville, Tennessee. The Cumberland River overflowed flooding downtown Nashville for the first time since the U.S. Army built flood-control dams on the Cumberland River in the 1940s. More than 30 persons were killed in the floodwaters, and the damage to businesses and homes was enormous.
Sitting on the north bank of the Cumberland River is Cumberland Architectural Millwork. Co-owner Martin S. Roberts III is a founding board member of the Tennessee Chapter. When the heavy rains continued all day on Sunday, and the news began reporting widespread flooding, Roberts headed down to inspect his shops and make sure all was well. As of Sunday evening, the river was almost three feet below floor level of his lowest-lying building, the casework shop. The river at that point was higher than it had been in years, and the word went out that it had crested. Roberts went home in hopes they were right.
However, the unprecedented rains outstripped all predictions. When Roberts arrived back at work Monday morning, the casework shop was already inundated. Eventually, more than three feet of water would flow through the building.
The millwork shop, which sat a little higher across the street, was within inches of being flooded. Roberts and his workers began furiously moving computers, files, drawings and millwork to higher ground. This last-minute effort saved most of the millwork and important files, but when the Corps of Engineers saw that Old Hickory Dam was dangerously near overtopping, they made the decision to open the floodgates, and the Cumberland rose still higher, flooding the millworks shop with a foot of water.
By Tuesday, the water level had dropped enough that workers could begin cleaning up the millworks shop. One day later, Roberts’ employees were working again, churning out millwork even while the cleanup went on around them.
The caseworks shop across the street would take six weeks to come back on line. Trucks hauled off 38 30-yard dumpsters full of materials lost to the flood damage, and almost all the casework and millwork equipment were total losses. But by the end of June, all the lost equipment had been replaced and the shop was fully functional and productive once again.