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Nashville's Famed Music Quieted by Flooding

  • Tenn. Floods

    May 5: Scott Burton, left, gives a boat ride to neighbors down a flooded street in Nashville, Tenn. (AP)

  • Floods Consume Nashville

    A vehicle is driven through standing water on a flooded street on Saturday, May 1, 2010 in Nashville, Tenn. Widespread flooding is being reported in Tennessee as heavy rains continue to pound the state. Tennessee Emergency Management spokesman Jeremy Heidt said some areas of the state had gotten up to 10 inches of rain by Saturday afternoon and more was expected. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) (AP)

  • Floods Consume Nashville

    Opryland worker Jason Bowlin sits in a boat in the flooded parking lot of the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday, May 3, 2010. After heavy weekend rains and flooding, officials in Tennessee are preparing for the Cumberland River, which winds through Nashville, to crest more than 11 feet Monday afternoon. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) (AP)

NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- While city officials reported progress Wednesday restoring Nashville's electrical and water systems after a devastating flood, the downtown remained dark, homes were sodden and patience was wearing thin four days after flash flooding and storms blamed for at least 29 deaths in three states.

Nashville's country music scene also began assessing damage from the floods. The city is considered the heart of country music, and the blazing fiddles and screaming guitars in Nashville's famed downtown honky-tonks were a little quieter as business owners pumped water out of their restaurants and bars.

The Country Music Hall of Fame has closed and the Grand Ole Opry -- the most famous country music show in the world -- had to move its performances to other concert halls.

The Cumberland River, which winds through the heart of the city, spilled over its banks as Nashville received more than 13 inches of pounding rain over the weekend. The flash floods were blamed in the deaths of at least 18 people in Tennessee alone, including nine in Nashville. Other deaths from the weekend storms were reported in Kentucky and Mississippi.

None of the deaths were in the city's entertainment district, a five-block square of honky-tonks and restaurants downtown where animated barkers often stand outside at night encouraging patrons to step inside. But some businesses were without electricity and had to shut down -- a blow to Nashville's economy and reputation as a freewheeling town. The city has more than 11 million visitors annually.

Flood damage at the Country Music Hall of Fame was mostly confined to a mechanical room and did not get in the exhibit area where 112 of country's greatest stars are chronicled in down-home tributes.

At the Opry, five miles northeast of the entertainment district, performer Marty Stuart said he feared water had destroyed instruments, costumes, audio tapes, boots and "just everything that goes along with the Opry and Opry stars."

Singer Chris Young said a special Opry show Tuesday night at the War Memorial Auditorium was a welcome diversion for many residents. Hundreds of people turned out.

"A lot of people coming here have lost either their houses, their possessions or their cars in the storm," he said.

Country music star Brad Paisley was just days away from starting rehearsals for his ironically titled H2O Tour. But now he must replace staging, instruments and much of his road setup after 5 to 8 feet of water flooded the area.

Keith Urban, Vince Gill, LeAnn Rimes and a host of others are waiting to see what remains of their possessions. No one is optimistic. Their storage area called consists of three buildings located along the bloated Cumberland River.

Gaylord Entertainment CEO Colin Reed says it will be at least three months before the massive entertainment complex that also includes the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Opry Mills Mall has guests again.

The resort is still assessing the damage, but flooding appeared to have destroyed the first floor of the sprawling complex.

One of the downtown honky-tonks still open is Robert's Western World -- "Nashville's undisputed home of traditional country music" as it proclaims on its website.

"There's not much that can shut us down," bartender Sammy Barrett said in a telephone interview as country music blared in the background.

Some entertainment venues weren't damaged, including the former home of the Grand Ole Opry, the 118-year-old Ryman Auditorium. A Barenaked Ladies concert there next Monday is still scheduled.

On the other side of the river, LP Field, the home of the Tennessee Titans, was drying out: The Titans' logo could once again be seen from the air. A four-day country music festival will be at the stadium in five weeks.

The production of country music in the city also seems have survived unscathed from the more than 13.5 inches (34 centimeters) of rainfall that fell Saturday and Sunday. "Music Row" -- an approximately four-square block area that houses recording studios, record labels, song publishing companies and others on the business side of the music industry -- is a mile (1.6 kilometer) from the river and wasn't flooded.

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