A Tuesday presidential declaration made official what was clear to anyone with good eyesight: Four counties along the Cumberland River in Middle Tennessee are disaster areas.

Cheatham, Davidson, Hickman and Williamson counties now are able to receive grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from flooding, according to the White House.

On Tuesday, Tennessee's 11-member congressional delegation petitioned President Barack Obama to approve Gov. Phil Bredesen's request for federal disaster aid. Gov. Bredesen designated 52 of 95 counties as disaster areas.

President Obama expressed sympathy for the Southeast and said that he was dispatching the head of Federal Emergency Management Agency to assess damage.

Widespread flooding predicted for Chattanooga on Tuesday never occurred. But devastation in Middle Tennessee caused by a 1,000-year flood continues to mount as the first wave of residents returned to flood-soaked homes.

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency reported 19 deaths associated with flooding caused by weekend rains. The floods so far have claimed 29 lives across Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi. Thousands of homes were swamped, and a handful of the Music City's most visible landmarks were marred by dark river water.

Nashville's Cumberland River began to ebb Tuesday after hitting 52 feet on Monday -- 12 feet above flood stage. Rescuers expected more deaths.

"Those in houses that have been flooded and some of those more-remote areas, do we suspect we will find more people? Probably so," Nashville Fire Chief Kim Lawson told The Associated Press. "We certainly hope that it's not a large number."

In Chattanooga, there was little sign that the devastating storm, which also caused flooding in Atlanta, even had passed through this area.

Two of three local creeks crested below flood stage and began quietly falling by Tuesday afternoon.

South Chickamauga Creek, which flows through Catoosa County into East Ridge then drains into the Tennessee River, reached 15.5 feet Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. and began steadily falling. Flood stage is 18 feet, according to the National Weather Service.


To date, 29 people have died in Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi as a result of severe flooding. Tennessee was the hardest hit with 19 deaths.

Deaths by county

Davidson County: 10

Perry County: 2

Stewart County: 2

Carroll County: 1

Williamson County: 1

Hickman County: 1

Montgomery: 1

Hardeman County: 1 (tornado)

Source: Tennessee Emergency Management Agency

West Chickamauga Creek, which intersects with South Chickamauga near Camp Jordan in East Ridge, topped out at 10.7 feet around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Flood stage is 11 feet.

Lookout Creek, which flows down the mountain, was the only local waterway to reach flood stage, according to National Weather Service data. Flood stage is 12 feet, and the creek's highest-recorded level was 13 feet around 10 a.m. Monday. It had dropped to 8 feet by Tuesday afternoon, records show.

Camp Jordan Parkway in East Ridge was the only road closed, and that closure was brief, said Officer Erik Hopkins, East Ridge police spokesman.

That lack of disruption contrasts with the mounting financial losses in Nashville, which saw some of its most prominent attracted damaged by the floods, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is calling a "1,000-year event." Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center, along with the Grand Ole Opry and Oprys Mills Mall, all were submerged.

The hotel had $75 million in damage and may be closed for at least six months, the AP reported.

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