Mayor Karl Dean declared Thursday “we’re open for business right now” and urged tourists to visit Nashville despite the devastating weekend floods that inundated many of the city’s symbols.
“If you have reservations to come to Nashville, we want to see you here. We expect to see you here,” Dean told a conference call with reporters from around the country. “And you need to make reservations to come to Nashville. This is really one of the great destinations in the United States. The downtown, I guarantee you, will be thriving this weekend, and it’s only going to get stronger day after day as we go out. We’re going to restore that very, very quickly.”
The mayor noted “there are huge portions of the city” that were undamaged.
“The airport’s open. The interstates are running. We have also a strong downtown. The honky-tonks are already open, and there’s music there and beer there and barbecue there. Our art museum is open. We will have the country music festival in June. What I’m trying to get across to folks is, and this is really important to get, we’re open for business right now.”
Also Thursday, President Obama declared disasters in 11 more Tennessee counties, bring the number to 21, and Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Craig Fugate made his second trip to the state since the flood. Fugate said 8,500 flood victims already have applied for federal assistance. Gov. Phil Bredesen has requested disaster declarations for 52 counties.
“We can see President Obama and other federal officials continue to move quickly to process our requests and announce declarations for more counties,” Bredesen said. “I expect us to continue to see additional counties authorized for federal assistance as the damage assessments continue, which will be tremendously helpful to Tennesseans who suffered losses as they work to rebuild.”
The state Transportation Department awarded 10 emergency contracts to begin repairing damage to bridges and highways.