published Monday, September 5th, 2011

Rain at last, but flooding worries loom


by Naomi Jagoda
Raindrops on a car window show the sign for the historic Chattanooga Choo-Choo hotel downtown today, as the remnants of a tropical storm Lee pelted the region with rain. The National Weather Service predicts rain through Wednesday, with possible flooding.
Raindrops on a car window show the sign for the historic Chattanooga Choo-Choo hotel downtown today, as the remnants of a tropical storm Lee pelted the region with rain. The National Weather Service predicts rain through Wednesday, with possible flooding.
Photo by Tracey Trumbull.
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Tessa Portwood, 16, and her family lost some of their furniture two years ago when their apartment in Fort Oglethorpe flooded. With Tropical Storm Lee looming, the ground-floor Battlewood Apartments resident is nervous she'll see flooding again.

"[My mother] just says to pray about it," Portwood said Sunday as the National Weather Service placed the tri-state region under a flash flood watch until Tuesday.

After the driest August on record, the storm is expected to dump 3 to 6 inches of rain in Chattanooga and surrounding areas in Tennessee through Tuesday evening.

North Georgia can expect 5 to 7 inches, said Robert Garcia, a weather service meteorologist in Peachtree City, Ga.

"[Flooding is] a pretty big threat with the storm," Garcia said. He added that flooding is the leading cause of death when tropical storms move inland and that people should not drive around barricades.

Given the Battlewood Apartments' history of flooding, some residents were concerned Sunday about the storm.

"We always worry about it. It's always a possibility of that here," said ground-floor resident Sarah Wilhoite, 31, who said she has a place to go with her two children if her apartment floods.

Battlewood Apartments' management sent a note to its residents about the weather, telling residents to pay attention to the news and to look to see if there is rising water in the parking lot.

"We want to remind everyone to be alert and prepared," the letter said.

Yet some others living in low-lying areas were less concerned about flooding.

Jim Allison, who lives in the Fountainbleau Apartments near Parkridge East hospital, had to spend four months in a hotel after his first-floor apartment was inundated by a foot of water in September 2009.

But Allison said Sunday he doesn't expect Lee to bring another such disaster.

His apartment floods when Chattanooga Creek overflows and the water level in the creek is currently low, he said.

At another low spot, Camping World off Ringgold Road, service director Paul Ervin said there weren't any immediate plans to move the RVs to higher ground.

In the attached RV park, visitor Reese English, 72, said he doesn't plan to leave.

"This ground is so dry, we won't even see the first 4 inches of rain," he said with a chuckle.

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