published Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Tennessee, Georgia counties report widespread flooding

Cinder blocks from Rhea Central Church of God's fellowship hall, in the Morgantown community of Dayton, Tenn., are piled in the forefront on Monday morning, while Rhea County worker Terry Fischesser walks near where the foundation used to be. The rising flood waters of Richland Creek damaged underpinning and flooring inside several residences, including one resident's now-vacated trailer near the church.
Cinder blocks from Rhea Central Church of God's fellowship hall, in the Morgantown community of Dayton, Tenn., are piled in the forefront on Monday morning, while Rhea County worker Terry Fischesser walks near where the foundation used to be. The rising flood waters of Richland Creek damaged underpinning and flooring inside several residences, including one resident's now-vacated trailer near the church.
  • photo
    This photograph is from the Cold Springs Community on Sunday where flood waters pushed two mobile homes off their foundations. Authorities said water levels rose quickly, surprising homeowners and officials.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Heavy weekend rains that continued into Monday closed schools, roads and left some people homeless across the tri-state region before finally relenting.

Schools were closed Monday in Bledsoe and Rhea counties in Tennessee and in Walker County, Ga., but they were drying out by Monday afternoon, and all were expected to be in session today.

In Tennessee, several mobile homes were damaged Sunday, and two were swept off their foundations by raging waters in the Cold Spring community, according to Ricky Seals, investigator with the Bledsoe County Sheriff's Office.

"It just went from feast to famine; the water came all at once," Seals said.

Sunday's downpour pushed Cold Spring Cove Branch over its banks in a matter of minutes, and it took "three or four hours" for water levels to recede, he said.

While Dayton City and Rhea County schools were closed Monday, dispatchers there said students will be back to a normal schedule today.

Authorities in Rhea said crews were working on a few washed-out roads in the Morgantown community, just north of Dayton city limits. Repairs were expected to be done by today, they said.

Red Cross officials were in Bledsoe and Rhea counties Monday to help flood-struck residents.

"We are currently doing damage assessment and bulk distribution, making sure that both those affected as well as relief workers have emergency items they need such as meals, snacks and cleanup kits," Red Cross Regional Director of Communications Stan Gibert said. "Our staff and volunteers are in the Pikeville area of Bledsoe County and Morgantown, just outside Dayton in Rhea County, and will stay there as long as there is a need."

Officials in Sequatchie County said there were few flooding problems and no damaged roads, while Marion County officials said a few people needed help getting out of their homes, but by Monday streams and creeks were back to normal.

Grundy County officials said there were a few downed trees and power lines but no major damage.

ACROSS STATE LINES

In North Georgia, Chattooga and Walker counties suffered flooding, and Walker County schools opened two hours late.

Walker County Director of Emergency Services David Ashburn said people had to be evacuated in the southern end of the county.

"We went in at about three different houses to bring them out in boats," he said.

Ashburn said the damage is estimated to be anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000, not including personal property. Much of the damage was from downed trees and washed-away drives.

"We've been spending all day today cleaning trees and fixing drives so people can get in and out of their house," Ashburn said.

There was even a renegade propane tank.

"[It] got loose and was spewing propane, and it took awhile to get it under control and get it shut down," he said.

Ashburn said he didn't know what levels the flooding reached.

"So much of ours was flash flooding," he said. "It wasn't at the creeks that are measurable."

Walker County emergency management sent a water team into Chattooga County to assist with water damage there.

In Northwest Alabama, DeKalb County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Shannon St. John said there were no reports Sunday of major flooding or damage. She said no roads were closed, and there was no affect on schools.

There was minor flooding around Bridgeport, Jackson County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen said.

The forecast for the rest of the week calls for a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon today, the same chance tonight and a 60 percent chance of rain Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. Forecasters expect a slight chance of showers and thunderstorms for the remainder of the week.

Staff writer Lindsay Burkholder contributed to this story.

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 ...

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