Tennessee flood damage at least $1 billion: governor

NASHVILLE, Tennessee Fri May 7, 2010 11:11am EDT

1 of 5. Houses surrounded by water from Cumberland river after being after heavy rains from the weekend in Nashville, May 4, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/M. J. Masotti Jr.

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NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Tennessee sustained more than $1 billion in flood damage just in the private sector, and many homeowners likely were not insured against flooding, the governor said on Thursday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has received 8,500 requests for financial aid, which could come in the form of loans or grants, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said in a conference call with reporters.

"This is a very large, very complex flood event and the numbers are only going to go up," Fugate said.

A weekend deluge triggered flash flooding and pushed rivers out of their banks in parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi, killing some 30 people.

"I'd be astonished if there weren't $1 billion in damage in the private sector, and probably considerably more," Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen told reporters.

Because this week's flooding hit in areas not considered flood-prone, property owners may not have had flood insurance, Bredesen said.

Some parts of central Tennessee were still flooded, though the Cumberland River that snakes through Nashville had receded considerably from its Monday crest, authorities said.

Gaylord Entertainment Co said it would give details on Friday on the flood's impact on its Gaylord Opryland Resort and other facilities. The hotel had to evacuate 1,500 people to a high school, and Tuesday's Grand Ole Opry country music performance had to be moved to a different auditorium.

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, who would not estimate lost tourism revenues due to the flooding, said Opryland "was flooded and it will be closed for several months while they fix it up."

Still, Dean said at least 80 percent of the city of 626,000 was unaffected, and the airport and highways were open.

"We anticipate the Country Music Hall of Fame to open this weekend; the honky-tonks (bars), which are really the most important thing, are already open, there's music there, beer there and barbecue; our art museum is open; and we will have the country music festival in June," Dean said.

"We're open for business right now. if you've got reservations to come to Nashville we expect to see you here," he said.

(Reporting by Pat Harris in Nashville and Andrew Stern in Chicago; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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