NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Muddy waters poured over the banks of Nashville's swollen Cumberland River on Monday, spilling into Music City's historic downtown streets while rescuers using boats and Jet Skis plucked stranded residents away from their flooded homes as the death toll from the weekend storms climbed to 28 people in three states.
The flash floods caused by record-breaking amounts of rain caught many here off-guard, forcing thousands to frantically flee their homes and hotels.
The rapidly rising waters killed 17 people in Tennessee alone, including 10 in Nashville, and officials feared that the death toll could increase.
Though the historic Ryman Auditorium -- the former home of the Grand Ole Opry -- and the recording studios of Music Row, were not in immediate danger, parts of other top Nashville tourist spots including the Country Music Hall of Fame and The Grand Ole Opry House were flooded.
Authorities closed off streets in downtown Nashville with the Cumberland River forecast to crest as early as Monday night at about 12 feet above flood stage after weekend storms dumped more than 13 inches of rain in two days.
About five miles east of downtown, flooding forced about 1,500 guests from the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center to evacuate Sunday night to a high school, shutting down one of the nation's largest hotel and convention centers indefinitely.
Up to 10 feet of water stood in parts of the hotel, as restaurant chairs and crates of wine glasses floated by. A life-sized Elvis statue missing his guitar was laying on its back in the nearby parking lot of the Wax Museum of the Stars.
Gov. Phil Bredesen declared 52 of Tennessee's 95 counties as disaster areas after finishing an aerial tour and said he talked with President Barack Obama.