Nightly News   |  August 08, 2013

Nashville residents rescued from flash flood

As the rain fell, water levels kept rising, making it difficult for emergency crews to reach people who managed to escape their homes only to become stranded. NBC’s Kerry Sanders reports.

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>>> i'm lester holt in tonight for brian. we start with the days and days of torrential rains that have left neighborhoods cut off, cars swept away and led to evacuations and some dramatic rescues. it's happening across the nation's midsection and it has left scores of communities awash in misery. as we come on the air tonight, flash flood watches and warnings are posted for more than a dozen states. from kansas to tennessee. to give you a sense of the intensity of the downpours they've been seeing, parts of missouri saw 15 inches of rain in two days. parts of arkansas got 10 inches overnight. so far this weather system has left at least two people dead. we begin our coverage in hard-hit nashville and nbc's kerry sanders . kerry, give us a sense of what all that water is doing.

>> reporter: well, good evening, lester. more than 200 people here in tennessee were rescued by boat. the power of those flash floods is evident right here. this is the foundation of what was a one-story office building . those flash floods picked it up and deposited it over here in a parking lot. rain was predicted, but nashville residents didn't expect to wake up to this. eight inches of rain on already saturated ground sent water rushing down city streets and highways, forcing some to shut down completely. it began before dawn .

>> a couple more inches and this area is going to be in trouble again. so hopefully this will slow down.

>> reporter: but the water kept rising.

>> i got up and looked out the bedroom window and i said, oh, my god.

>> reporter: making it especially difficult for emergency crews to reach people who managed to escape their homes, only to become stranded. 911 calls began at 4:30 in the morning. at least 35 water rescues were reported. schools opened on schedule, but buses were diverted from flooded areas. by late afternoon, floodwaters began to recede, revealing the damage.

>> all my furniture, everything was just messed up. couches turned over.

>> reporter: in missouri, six inches of rain on top of three days of relentless downpours set the stage for flash floods . more than 40 roads remain closed in central missouri . one woman died when her car was swept away and a 4-year-old boy drowned. even with more rain predicted, residents today began cleaning up.

>> you cross your fingers and hope everything will come out okay. hope the insurance covers it and go on and see what we can do.

>> reporter: in northern georgia, ten inches of rain washed out several roads. officials are unsure when they'll all reopen. in southern kansas, hundreds of homes damaged. dozens of campgrounds evacuated. after six inches of rain hit the area. tonight, thousands in central tennessee remain without power, but for some who remember the devastating flood of 2010 , this was just too much.

>> i know one thing. i've got to move. i can't stay here.

>> reporter: tonight, the red cross has opened shelters here in nashville . officials say it's still too early. they are calculating the extent of the damage. lester?