published Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Seven days later: One week brings no change in hunt for South Pittsburg aid

Rob McLean puts his hand out as a few raindrops fall while talking Wednesday about flood damage to his Holly Avenue home in South Pittsburg, Tenn.
Rob McLean puts his hand out as a few raindrops fall while talking Wednesday about flood damage to his Holly Avenue home in South Pittsburg, Tenn.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

HELPING, FINDING HELP

Anyone who wants to assist in recovery efforts in South Pittsburg, Tenn., should contact South Pittsburg City Hall at 423-837-5000. South Pittsburg residents and others in Marion County who need help recovering from the storm should call 423-942-2525 or 423-486-2151.

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SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — Charles Hackworth thinks if federal investigators can't find $8.5 million in South Pittsburg flood damage, they ought to keep looking.

"They need to spend two to three days going street to street, walking," he said Wednesday, one week after flash flooding decimated the Marion County town.

As of Wednesday, South Pittsburg still hadn't reached the $8.5 million magic number that warrants federal relief aid.

"We are literally dialing for money right now," Mayor Jane Dawkins said Wednesday. Whether the effort will pay off is yet to be seen.

"We hope, but we don't know right now," Dawkins said.

Representatives from a handful of state agencies met Wednesday in South Pittsburg to discuss state-offered disaster aid. Still though, no word.

Tennessee Housing Development Agency and Southeast Tennessee Development District officials said they've just gotten on board and can't say yet whether they'll be able to bring money to town. FEMA officials still are saying there isn't enough damage.

Meanwhile, mold is growing in South Pittsburg homes and mud has turned to dust in the streets.

Disaster tour

Town and state officials toured devastated areas Wednesday to see, a week later, how bad things still are. They stopped briefly at Hackworth's home, where he lives with his wife, Emily, and his brother-in-law, Rob McClean. There is a line of mud and storm wrack nearly at eye level on the ground floor.

The family's 2009 Subaru Impreza is totaled, and a storage shed is 10 feet from where it sat a week ago.

Charles Hackworth's sister gave him a snowman cutout a few years ago to measure the Arizona snowfall when he lived out there. Now it sits with all the other musky belongings from the ground-level floor: McClean's theology books and papers, knotty pine paneling, furniture and the belongings of Hackworth's late brother.

  • Flash flood hits downtown South Pittsburg, Tenn.
    Heavy rains late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning brought flash flooding to downtown South Pittsburg, Tenn. The flooding, which left a layer of mud throughout downtown, damaged many area homes and businesses.

The snowman cutout's ruler only goes up to 18 inches, 48 inches shy of last week's high-water mark on their downstairs windows. And Charles said the insurance money will not go far.

"It might replace the carpet,"he said.

The officials' tour passed through the Richard City area, where a washed-out bridge marooned five families for nearly a week, and by one house the city is trying to condemn.

Dawkins said the family in the house lost everything and is dealing with contaminated mud in their home. South Pittsburg officials don't know why, she said, but some of the flooding brought mud mixed with human excrement and soiled personal items into residential areas.

But again, state officials stepped in. Sammy Burrows, South Pittsburg city administrator, said the request for condemnation was denied at the state level, on the grounds that everything in the house can be replaced or fixed.

Relief in the meantime

Right now individuals, churches and organizations have stepped up to get the town back on its feet, but nobody knows how long that can last.

Ruthie Forgey, corps administrator for the Chattanooga-area Salvation Army, said come Friday, a reassessment will be done to see what South Pittsburg residents need. Right now, Salvation Army employees and volunteers are set up at the fire hall on Elm Avenue. They handed out hot meals Wednesday during lunch and dinner and planned to do the same until the reassessment.

"People are cleaning up. They can't get into their homes, so we cook a hot meal for them," Forgey said. She said the Salvation Army is teaming up with local churches and Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Aid to assist victims.

And for now, that's South Pittsburg's lifeline as the town does what it has already done for a week: wait.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6731.

about Alex Green...

Alex Green joined the Times Free Press staff full-time in January 2014 after completing the paper's six-month, general assignment reporter internship. Alex grew up in Dayton, Tenn., which is also where he studied journalism at Bryan College. He graduated from Rhea County High School in 2008. During college, Alex covered the city of Graysville and the town of Spring City for The Herald-News. As editor-in-chief of Bryan College's student news group, Triangle, Alex reported on ...

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