Rebuilding Lives After the Flood

Carlo Zantuctiss, 57, stands next to where his house stood before flood waters washed it away two weeks ago.

Nashville, TN – Carlo Zantucttiss, 57, lost everything two weeks ago after flood waters washed away his home, decimated his used car business and put out of business a restaurant he rented out. The businesses and properties, which Zantucttiss purchased six years ago, were an investment for retirement, something that now is unlikely.

“All of my money was here,” he says.

He still owes the bank $230,000 and says he’ll be lucky to receive $100,000 from insurance. He may get a loan from FEMA, he says, but even then, the city has told him that he cannot rebuild his properties, which flank Mill Creek in the low-lying Antioch section of Nashville, one of the hardest hit parts of the city. He and his wife are living currently in an RV home next to where his house once stood.

“How am I going to pay for this?” he says. “I’m too old to start over again.”

In the aftermath of the storms that dumped a record 15 inches of rain on Nashville over a 48-hour period May 2 and 3, more than 2,000 homes were destroyed, with roughly 2,600 left homeless and 19 dead. Some estimates put the flood damage as high as $1.5 billion. Local governments’ crisis response ended officially Sunday evening, with emergency aid deliveries and other services being deferred to FEMA and non-profit agencies like the Red Cross.

The official focus now is recovery, but it’s clear that many, like Zantuctiss, remain in crisis mode. Amid the heaping piles of debris, people were still lining up for bottled water and food, with the Red Cross making deliveries to those unable to travel to one of several area relief depots.

Bob Barnhardt, who heads the local Concord Community Church Youth Group, was out Sunday with a group of volunteers, hauling trash onto piles and removing dry wall from buildings. He’s been helping with the recovery effort four days a week for four to eight hours a day. “Everywhere you go you’ll see people helping out,” he says. “It’s coming together, slowly. There are still a lot of piles that need cleaning up.”

Driving along the Antioch Parkway, which runs parallel to Mill Creek, the evidence of flooding is everywhere. Porches stuck in trees. Clothing hanging from high-up branches. The remnants of lives soaking in soggy ditches. It’s amazing that more didn’t die.

Ron Hale, 28, points to the water line on his shed door. Hale says the water nearly reached the ceiling of his father's mobile home.

Some hours after the rains began pouring on May 2, Ron Hale, 28, and his family left their mobile home to seek higher ground, but the water had already flooded their cars. They grabbed what clothes they could and waded to higher ground. They’ve been staying at a nearby motel since.

“We lost everything,” says Hale. “Two cars, a truck, everything inside in the trailer.”

Insurance won’t cover damages to Hale’s mobile home because it was purchased under a land-contract, meaning the Hale’s don’t technically yet own the property. “They won’t give us damages for something we don’t own,” he explains.

However, Hale says he has reason to feel fortunate. “We might of lost everything, but at least we had something to rebuild,” he says. “That’s more than a lot of those folks down the road are left with. We’re grateful for that.”

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