When Dr. Michael DeRoche got home from his hospital rounds that afternoon, he could not sit still. All day he’d been hearing about flooding around Nashville. And in all his years on the East and West coasts, he had never seen rain like this. He put a 14-inch plastic painter’s bucket in the yard to try to get a reading on it.
His house was on a cul-de-sac off Temple Road, which ran along sleepy little Trace Creek, normally a trickle. When DeRoche ventured out in his car to have a look around, the stream was a raging torrent. Back at home, listening to the news, the doctor heard stories of trucks submerged on the highway and people chased from their homes by water overflowing the banks of Nashville’s many creeks and streams. The southeast side of town was the worst. DeRoche and his family lived in Bellevue, on a hill in the southwest. Still, the rain was relentless. Then, around five o’clock, the water seemed to stop rising. Just in time — the backyard bucket was spilling over. So much for the flood, DeRoche and his neighbors thought. They went to bed that evening thinking they had dodged a bullet.
At 6:15 the next morning, a loud clap of thunder startled DeRoche’s wife, Paula, from her sleep. She got up, looked out to the back porch, then rushed to wake DeRoche. “You’d better come see this,” she said.
At the bottom of the hill, Temple Road was submerged, and across the street, a neighbor’s garage was surrounded by seven feet of water. Two people next door to it were climbing down from a second-story window and into a canoe with their dog. And still it rained. The DeRoches would not be going anywhere this Sunday morning.
“We’d better start timing these contractions,” Cindy told James at eight o’clock that morning.
She went to a website that had an app to monitor contractions, and she started clicking the prompts to monitor herself. James got their hospital bag out of the closet and called his sister Becky Lewis, who lived nearby, to come pick up Jacob. The television was on in the background, airing bulletins about flooding. Suddenly the power went out, and the phone went dead. Rain rumbled on the roof.
Once his sister arrived, James and Cindy saw Jacob off with a kiss and prepared to leave. Just as James opened the garage door, their next-door neighbor Yusuf Hasan appeared.
“What are you doing?” Hasan asked.
“Heading to the hospital,” James said. “It’s time.”
Hasan looked at them as if they were crazy. “How are you going to get there?” he asked. The creek down the street was swollen 30 feet wide. Their neighborhood was an island.
“We still have to go to the hospital,” James insisted. “We’re in labor.”
“At least let me drive you,” Hasan said. His SUV was built higher than their car. “Worse comes to worst, James, you can deliver the baby while I try to get you to the hospital.” The couple climbed into Hasan’s SUV and set off, but they didn’t get far before encountering a police officer.