published Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Cleveland has 'tremendous flooding'

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Cleveland experienced "tremendous flooding" after heavy rains early Wednesday, according to the city's Public Works Department.

Three men had to be rescued after launching a tubing trip down flood-swollen Mouse Creek at 5 a.m., according to a Bradley County Emergency Service news release. They were pulled from creek after getting caught on brush near Cleveland High School. One 29-year-old was hospitalized.

Most flooding problems have been less dramatic, but constant, said Tommy Meyers, public works director.

"We've been flooded with calls all day, coming from all over the city," he said Wednesday. "Our goal for today is to respond to calls and to ensure that pipes are not clogged and no debris blocks storm drains."

Cleveland's drainage system was not designed to handle the kind of water volume that rains have dumped on the city, he said. "There's nothing we can do to make it handle it properly."

The heavy rain has caused only a few wastewater overflows, said Craig Mullinax, vice president of Cleveland Utilities' water division.

"It was nothing unusual for this amount of rainfall," he said. "It didn't overwhelm our system."

Wednesday's rains did not result in critical responses from the Bradley County Emergency Management Agency or the Bradley County Sheriff's Office, officials said.

However, the county has been given notice by the National Weather Service that the area could receive a total of 5 or 6 inches of rain by the weekend, said Curtis Cline, spokesman for Bradley County EMA.

Several officials reported the area has received at least 2 inches in the last couple of days.

A weather service report Wednesday stated that parts of the southern Tennessee Valley may experience localized flash flooding and rising rivers and streams that may remain high through the weekend or early next week. Parts of North Georgia were under flood watches late Wednesday.

In addition to flooding, falling trees usually accompany rainfall in the amounts the area already has received, said Bob Gault, spokesman for the Bradley County Sheriff's Office.

The problem, Gault said, is that saturated soil sometimes gives way under the weight of a tree and results in a blocked road. In such instances, deputies will divert traffic until the Bradley County Road Department can respond, he said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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