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Looking Back: Nashville's 2010 Flood


First Avenue, Nashville, Tennessee

The waters have long since receded, but the memories of the May 2010 flood and its impact on the city run deep. Throughout the record-breaking event, the Metro Nashville District Energy System (DES) Energy Generation Facility was never in jeopardy of being flooded, and the chilled water system continued to supply cooling to DES customers. In addition, within days, the DES steam service was able to return to normal.

On Saturday, May 1, 2010, much of Middle Tennessee had an eye on local television coverage of the severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado watches and flood watches. Many of the warnings and watches turned into reality, with storms continuing throughout the night and all the next day. Record rainfall was recorded in the Nashville area on both Saturday and Sunday, with more than six inches each day. Creeks and rivers flooded neighborhoods, roads and the interstates surrounding Nashville. It became virtually impossible to navigate to and around the city.

On Sunday afternoon, as flood waters began spilling over the banks of the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville, the NDES steam system was shut down to avoid potential safety issues such as water hammers, or pressure surges in pipes.

Sunday night, water poured onto First Avenue, filling the energy distribution tunnels in Broadway.

By Monday night, the river finally crested. Water reached as far as the Country Music Hall of Fame on Fourth Avenue.

When the water receded and the operators of the DES were allowed access to the area, approximately 800,000 gallons of water were pumped out of the tunnels over the next two and a half days. After all structures, piping, insulation and electrical components were inspected, and boilers were lit at the Energy Generation Facility to restore steam service to the DES customers. Condensate in the steam lines had to be evacuated slowly, and the wet insulation had to be dried as the system came up to operating pressure. At approximately 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 8, the steam system was back to normal.

Constellation NewEnergy, Inc. (CNE), operator of the Metro Nashville DES, worked hard to restore service to DES customers in very difficult conditions. The staff and crew were extended hearty appreciation for their efforts.