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Nashville’s Music Community Devastated By Floods

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What started out as a heavy weekend storm in the Southeast ended up as record flooding in Tennessee this week--killing at least 19 people, destroying roads and property, and driving President Obama to declare parts of the state major disaster areas.

The rain, of course, didn't spare Nashville or its music community. Most notably, the legendary country landmark the Grand Ole Opry House is currently under six feet of water, with as-yet-unknown damage to its historic collections. The overall cost of damages to the city is estimated to exceed $1 billion, according to Nashville mayor Karl Dean.

But country artists themselves have been affected sorely as well. While giving fervent thanks for being safe and sound, many artists still lamented the loss of musical equipment, damage to their homes, and shows canceled due to the disaster.

Kenny Chesney was working in another state when the storms hit. He returned to Nashville midweek to find his home engulfed in water, rising past the first floor. His gym was ruined, his collection of sports memorabilia (including personal items from high school) was destroyed, and his publicist says his house will probably be condemned.

Chesney shared an eye-popping photo of himself knee-deep in floodwater outside his home, as well as called in to Anderson Cooper's show on CNN to report on area damages. He told Cooper, "The city is really hurting now...it's been a really tough thing for people to deal with, including me." (You can watch the entire interview, including footage Chesney shot, here.)

"The things I lost, I can replace, thank God," he added. "But there are people here that have lost their lives and their livelihood."

He urged viewers to please help out if possible. "People need just bare essentials in Nashville."

Keith Urban was storing his gear at East Nashville rehearsal facility Soundcheck, which was almost completely submerged by floodwater. "I've probably lost all of my road equipment, and all my guitars, and amp and everything," he told CNN.

Many other stars used their Twitter accounts to update friends and fans of the disaster's reach.

Brad Paisley noted, "I think all my road guitar gear, amps, effects, are under 3 ft of river. Not complaining though. Very very thankful to have weathered this."

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Dierks Bentley posted a photo of himself bailing out his flooded basement, apologized to fans for having canceled two shows, and explained, "Nashville is a disaster. All of our houses are messed up."

Those in the country community but not currently in the direct area of Nashville took the opportunity to tweet for prayers and fundraising.

"Please keep Nashville in your heart. Seeing a picture of the Grande Ole Opry halfway underwater was a kind of heartbreak I can't describe," commented Taylor Swift.

A benefit telethon, Working 4 You: Flood Relief with Vince Gill & Friends, will be broadcast on local station WSMV-TV channel 4 on prime time from 7-10 p.m. Stars scheduled to appear include Urban, Alison Krauss, Naomi Judd, Amy Grant, Darius Rucker, Phil Vassar, Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry, Steve Wariner, Buddy Jewell, Lonestar, Bo Bice and Lee Roy Parnell. All proceeds will benefit the Salvation Army, Red Cross, and the Second Harvest Food Bank.

The Country Music Association, which puts on the annual star-packed CMA Festival in Nashville each summer, posted prominent links to relief funding and assured fans that the Festival will still take place as planned June 10-13. ""We cannot think of a better way to help our local economy at this time of great need than to continue the 39-year tradition of CMA Music Festival," said CMA Chairman Steve Moore in a statement.

If you'd like to help out the city of Nashville, please visit the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to donate online.

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