[intro2]I wanted to relate a story to you that happened to my wife and I while on vacation at the Grand Ole Opry Hotel during the 100 year flood several years ago.[/intro2]
Any internet search on the words “Grand Ole Opry Hotel Flood” will return many articles and pictures on this flood.
I did not have a bug-out pack, and at that time had never really given it much thought. But this was the night I would find out just how quickly things can go wrong and out of control. Not necessarily because of the weather conditions or their affects, but more because of the way people reacted to their surroundings and their loss of everyday comfort.
We are originally from Ohio, and were at the Land between the lakes in Kentucky, for the Jeep Jamboree, which was cut short on the second day due to rain. It was that night at about 11:00PM, the park lodge employees were knocking on everyone’s doors to get us into the basement due to the tornado’s that had already touched down and the extreme high winds in the area.
After a long day on the road, sitting on the basement’s carpeted hallways, reminiscing with other drivers about the last two days of runs seemed comfortably inconvenient but acceptable.
About 2:30AM, we were allowed to return to our rooms, and by the time the adrenalin had worn off, it was at least 3:30AM before we went to sleep. We got up the next morning, and since we technically were on vacation, and still rather tired, did not bother checking the weather conditions around us, let alone anywhere else. Our original plan was to stay at the Land between the Lakes and do more off-roading, but since the park had closed due to rain, we decided to move on. My wife had stayed at the Grand Ole Opry Hotel once, and said it was a beautiful place, (and it is) and she would like to see it again. So with little thought, we turned on Tom-Tom and away he took us to Nashville Tennessee.
Again I must mention in our defense that we were on vacation, sleepy and tired, we are in a Jeep with a lift kit and 35″ tires, so the deep water is not a normal concern to us. As we drove into Nashville, we saw numerous newly developed waterfalls along the highway which didn’t seem to cause us concern. Even witnessing floating cars on the opposite side of the highway didn’t cause us any concerns, although we did think it was rather neat.
We pulled into the Grand Ole Opry Hotel, with the power flickering intermittently, we got a room and settled in. It’s been a long few days and we needed rest. We washed up and went down for dinner. Dinner was very good, and the service was excellent up to a certain point. When it came time to get our check we couldn’t get a waiter anywhere. We were ready to simply walk away when a waiter hurriedly walked past us. We stopped him and asked for a check. To our surprise he said never mind that, the hotel was being evacuated.
At first they just gathered everyone in the ballroom. Now I’m not sure what they were thinking, but 1500 people in one large room with limited doors makes me very nervous, so we stayed out in the hallway for a while. We were very tired from little sleep in the last few days, and all this fuss seemed to be just a precaution, so we snuck back into our room.
As my wife got some rest, I was watching the event unfold on TV. I watched live coverage of the hotel guests being moved to another hotel, figuring when they run out of space they’ll leave the rest of us here. After a few more hours, they announced that the surrounding hotels were also being evacuated to higher grounds. So, reluctantly and calmly, I woke my wife up, and told her we had to go. We were on the last bus out, and were taken to a local high school.
At first everyone was friendly and co-operative, the food was plentiful, the pillows and blankets were rolling in and people were settling down for a long night. Everything was going smoothly, but more and more people arrived. As the crowding increased, so did the demand for pillows, blankets, food and anything else you can imagine. There were people in line for pillows and blankets that had waited for an hour only to watch the incoming bus get overtaken by a mob who took all the blankets and pillows. This was a turning point in people’s behavior. The restrooms were being torn up and started to look real nasty. People were arguing over their piece of the floor, their pillow, their anything. It seemed that the more people that arrived, the more everyone became aggravated and angry.
Most of us had left our vehicles at the hotel, and it was announced that the folks that had their cars parked in the hotels indoor parking lot were not going to get their cars back because the parking deck was now under water. This had made the rest of us that had parked in the outside parking lot very nervous. Our cars were still ok, but not for long, and the hotel refused to take us back to get them because “the levy could give at any time and we could be harmed”, and they said they couldn’t take that chance with their guests.
Lucky for us, there was power numbers. We figured if we couldn’t sleep on the floor, we could at least get our cars and sleep in them. The hotel’s refusal to take us back to pick up our cars only increased the size of the group that wanted to get their vehicles. It finally got to the point where the numbers were to great, and we told the hotel management that if they won’t take us back, we would take one of the buses and go back ourselves.
By this time, the group was so large it required several buses . But, finally we got our vehicle, and spent the rest of the night in the Jeep. As soon as dawn arrived, we sought the highest elevation route back to Ohio.
It was during that difficult and tiresome drive, that I decided I have to put together an emergency pack to keep everywhere. You just never know whats around the corner and how little control you may have over your situation.
I now have packs ready to go at home and in the cars, with hopes I never have to use them, but feeling secure in the fact that if I do, they are always there.