Tennessee Flooded: C.A.O. Headquarters Wet but Standing

Record flooding and savage storms that killed at least 29 people in Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky have wreaked havoc on the southern United States, flooding business and homes, submerging cars and washing away at least one entire building. Neighborhoods have been evacuated, tourists moved from hotels and Interstates turned into pools.

The damage was particularly acute in Tennessee, where more than 1,000 have been rescued from the floodwaters. The Nashville area received three month's worth of rain in 48 hours time: 6.32 inches on Saturday and 7.25 inches more on Sunday. According to the Weather Channel, those were two of the city's three wettest days ever, dating back to 1871. In 48 hours, Nashville received 28 percent of its average annual rainfall.

C.A.O. International Inc., the only cigar company headquartered in Tennessee, is without power and phones but, so far, the damage to the company seems minimal.

All C.A.O. employees were unharmed, according to Jon Huber, the director of lifestyle marketing for the company, which makes C.A.O. La Traviata and many other cigars in Honduras and Nicaragua. Huber and company president Tim Ozgener flew back to Tennessee on Sunday from Philadelphia, flying into the heart of the storm that has left thousands stranded.

"We had no idea what we were coming home to," said Huber. "The flight home was horrible. I think we were one of the last planes to land … We looked down, and there was all this water—you could barely see the tops of some cars."

Huber and Ozgener went to the C.A.O. offices to assess the damage. "There's some standing water," said Huber, who was uncertain if the leak came from the roof or if the heavy winds pushed the water through seams in the windows or doors. "The warehouse has some water. But all our product is up on palates. All things considered, we're pretty lucky."

The American Red Cross is accepting donations to help those in need in Tennessee and the other affected Southern states. For more information, visit www.redcross.org/


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