published Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Southeast Tennessee sees trees, poles coming down as heavy rains fall

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    Portions of Point Park in Dayton, Tenn., flooded Tuesday afternoon following torrential rains Sunday and Monday. Photo by Kimberly McMillian
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CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Jonathon Robinson got quite the wake-up call Tuesday morning — two massive pine trees toppling onto the roof of his bedroom.

"It was very loud," said 17-year-old Robinson. "I thought it was thunder."

His dad, Bryant Robinson, said the 70- and 40-foot trees mostly spared the home on Valley Hills Lane that he rents, with little visible damage Tuesday afternoon.

Other close calls occurred around Bradley County as record rains pelted the region in the wake of Tropical Storm Lee.

A towering pine fell at the intersection of Harrison Pike and Country Club Lane in Cleveland, barely missing a home across the road. On Wildwood Lake Road in Cleveland, surging waters forced the wall of a roadside ditch to collapse, causing water to rush up under the pavement.

That could've washed away much of the pavement but city workers managed to save the road, said Tony Brown, a supervisor for the city's public works department.

"They called us just in time," he said.

Trying to keep up with storm damage around the city, his on-call crew had been working for more than 24 hours straight, Brown said Tuesday.

In Charleston, a levee owned by Wacker Chemical off Lauderdale Memorial Highway failed, spilling water into an adjacent field.

Officials in McMinn, Polk and Meigs counties said a number of roads were temporarily closed overnight and Tuesday morning, but flooded areas were clearing by the afternoon.

Bradley, Hamilton, McMinn, Meigs, Polk and Cleveland City schools were closed Tuesday, while Bledsoe, Grundy, Marion, Sequatchie and Rhea schools held to regular schedules, officials said.

McMinn County E911 Director Marvin Kelley said surging waters from area creeks were back in their banks early Tuesday afternoon, but there were numerous reports of downed trees, he said.

Marion County Sheriff Ronnie "Bo" Burnett said most flooding problems on Monday were minor but deputies worked "a lot of wrecks" on Labor Day.

"They had 10 [traffic accidents] at one time," Burnett said. "We were busy all day."

Meanwhile, Marion County Schools officials kept an eye on creek and river levels overnight just in case there was a need to call off school for today.

"Right now, we're OK, but we're watching the water level," Director of Schools Mark Griffith said Tuesday afternoon.

Emergency dispatchers in Bledsoe, Sequatchie and Grundy counties said Tuesday they had taken lots of calls about downed trees, but there were no reports of major property damage.

Sequatchee Valley Electric Cooperative customers were fortunate to avoid the worst, with only scattered outages, spokesman Mike Partin said. The utility serves portions of Bledsoe, Grundy, Marion, Sequatchie, Coffee, Hamilton, Rhea and Van Buren counties.

"We didn't have near the rainfall amounts or the damage that utilities around us had," he said.

By Tuesday afternoon, almost all SVEC customers had power with the exception of a few isolated locations, he said.

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about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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