Flood may sink some Tenn. businesses

A car sits in flood water near the state capitol building on left in Nashville, Tenn.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: There's an obvious temptation to put a price tag on disasters. How much the damage from an earthquake or an oil spill is going to cost. The floods this past weekend in Tennessee were no exception. In Nashville alone the total could come to more than a billion dollars. That's a tab that's going to be added up one small business at a time.

From WPLN in Nashville, Blake Farmer reports.


Blake Farmer: In the water around Midway Supply Company bob bundles of corrugated piping and railroad ties.

FARMER: Is that all your lumber that's sitting outside?

DAN REIGLE: Floating around, yeah.

Owner Dan Reigle says what wasn't moved to higher ground is now floating away in the Cumberland River -- about half-a-million dollars worth. The construction slowdown already forced Reigle to lay off nearly half his workers. But if he can borrow enough money, he says he'll stay afloat.

REIGLE: When the waters finally stopped coming up and started going down, you can go home and cry or you can say, OK, I've got to make a plan and see if we can fix it. That's what we're doing.

Reigle's foreman has been making the best of a bad situation. He's been in his boat lassoing the floating 2x4s and corralling them over the lumber yard fence in hopes they'll sink on company property.

Other businesses are underwater.

PHILLIP MELTON: My name is Phillip Melton. I'm a restaurant manager. I work over at Riverview.

Known for its fried catfish, there could be live catfish in the Riverview Restaurant right now. It's still submerged. So Melton is already looking for some source of income for at least a few months.

MELTON: I've got three kids and a mortgage and fortunately my wife is still working. I'm pretty strong. I can operate a shovel if I have to. At this point, I'm just looking for work.

Joining Melton out of work could be thousands tied to the economic engine that is Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center. The state's largest hotel was flooded when the Cumberland River topped a nearby levy and will be closed for months. Water also got inside the Grand Old Opry.

GEORGE GRUHN: We're talking about a major problem.

George Gruhn owns Gruhn Guitars in downtown Nashville.

The tourism industry is salvaging what it can of summer bookings. The country music industry is bailing water too. A warehouse called Nashville Soundcheck stored tour gear and personal instruments for country-music artists like Keith Urban and Vince Gill. The entire facility was flooded. Gruhn says vintage instruments will be destroyed.

GRUHN: If your 1937 Martin D-28 is submerged, it's not like you can go out and buy another new one.

But instead of writing a sad country song about losing their favorite guitar, artists have organized a telethon tonight to raise money for people who really have lost it all.

In Nashville, I'm Blake Farmer for Marketplace.

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