The iconic Grand Ole Opry House stage sat under 2 feet of water at the peak of deadly floods that ravaged Tennessee last weekend, but there was finally a bit of good news for residents facing a relentless grind of death and destruction.
Even as rising water lapped around their knees, a group of 10 to 15 workers moved some of the hall's most precious music memorabilia out of harm's way and Opry officials said Friday they are optimistic they can restore much of what has been damaged.
"It breaks your heart, but it's our responsibility to be sure that that building comes back to life, and it will," Opry president Steve Buchanan said.
The Opry House faced one problem: It's easy to put a value on a waterlogged couch, but how do you price Porter Wagoner's dressing room or the instruments in the Roy Acuff collection at the Opry House?
Buchanan gave details Friday on how Opry employees whisked away instruments, tapes and other important pieces to safety Sunday night at the Opry House as water overran a nearby levee. He did not want to give details on specific pieces, but "a lot of very important pieces" were moved.
"There's been moments we felt great - we got these items and they are safe and fine," Buchanan said. "But we will not feel a sense of relief until we've been through this entire process."
One special concern - the 6-foot circle of floorboards from the old Ryman Auditorium stage that was home to the Opry for so long - appears to be salvageable.
"It is in remarkably good condition," Buchanan said. "We will ultimately need to replace the stage. But we replaced the stage every few years, but not the circle. The circle will be back center stage very soon."
Gear that several musicians - from stars to session players - stored in lockers at the Opry House were inundated, though.
Among the musicians who had valuables damaged was Little Jimmy Dickens, the 4-foot-11 comedic heart of the Opry cast. Gaylord Entertainment CEO Colin Reed said some of Dickens' suits were damaged.
"We hope they haven't shrunk," Reed said to laughter from news conference attendees. "I'm sorry for making light of this, but if we didn't we would be constantly moved to tears."
Reed said it would be months before the entire Gaylord Orpyland complex northeast of downtown is reopened. He told investors earlier in the day damage is likely to exceed the company's $50 million insurance coverage.
Estimates in the community of $300 million to $400 million in damage are probably off the mark, he told reporters, but until water is pumped out of the Gaylord Opryland Resort's basement, where the power plant and technical hub are located, there's no way to know. For the next two weeks until they have a better idea of the damage, the resort will not take reservations for visits before October.
Nashville Under Water
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