Once a sea of lights, Nashville's Briley Parkway remains dark more than a week after unprecedented flooding devastated parts of the state and killed at least 18 people.
"When I first got here a week ago, we were in some dire straits," said Will Rowe, a Chattanooga Area Red Cross volunteer currently in Nashville. "I drove up to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and it was dark. It is still dark. I actually got lost on Briley Parkway because there were no lights."
Mr. Rowe is one of several local volunteers who has been assisting with the flood relief effort. He handles lodging arrangements for Red Cross workers coming into the area.
Despite roads and homes that still are under water, he said people "are very upbeat."
"It's the attitude of, 'Let's gather up our boot laces and get back on the job and move ahead with our lives,'" he said.
About 30 miles northwest of Nashville, Chattanooga Area Red Cross Emergency Services Director John Hitchens helped run a shelter at Sycamore High School in Cheatham County for about a week after the flooding. Mr. Hitchens got back to Chattanooga earlier this week.
At the shelter, where about 40 people stayed at its peak, with 16 who stayed throughout the time Mr. Hitchens was there, residents went through many emotions, he said. A mental health disaster service worker was on hand to help those who had lost their homes, he said.
"I think people go through that normal grieving process, where you go through the stages of denial and anger and bargaining and eventually acceptance," Mr. Hitchens said. "They all eventually have a little period of time where they get down, but fortunately it's not all at the same time, and people are there to support each other."
Though he's assisted in other disaster relief efforts, Mr. Hitchens said he'd never been involved in one of this magnitude.
As he drove from Nashville to Cheatham County -- with mountainsides eroded and highways looking more like parking lots than thoroughfares -- he noticed that not all areas were hit equally.
HOW TO HELP
Donations to assist in the Nashville flood recovery can be made to the Red Cross Disaster Relief fund by:
* Visiting www.redcross.org.
* Calling 1-800-REDCROSS.
* Making a $10 donation by texting REDCROSS to 90999.
"It's kind of funny because you can drive down some roads and they're dry and there's no evidence there was even any flooding, and yet you can get to other areas and the infrastructure has been completely put under water," Mr. Hitchens said. "As you head more toward rural areas -- that's where I was -- you can see where it hit the hardest."
Disaster relief efforts usually end 48 to 72 hours after an incident, he said, but recovery could take anywhere from six months to a year in Nashville. Now, he said, it's about the long-term, follow-up care.
And that includes getting locals who are still in the area to patronize businesses that are up and running, Mr. Rowe said.
"People have got to wake up to the fact that the disaster has passed," he said. "The people who are still around still need their business."
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