Chattanooga: No peak yet for rising waters

Chattanooga: No peak yet for rising waters

May 7th, 2009 by Adam Crisp, Jacqueline Koch and Kelly Jackson in News

Staff Photo by Margaret Fenton The search continues near the Rivermont Boat Ramp for two young men missing since Tuesday evening, when their boat capsized in the Tennessee River. Two Volunteer State Rescue boats are performing surface sweeps in an attempt to find the men. Additional boats are expected to aid in the search, though inclement weather may inhibit efforts this afternoon.

Staff Photo by Margaret Fenton The search continues near...

The Chattanooga area may stay mostly dry today, but more showers and thunderstorms could cause rivers and creeks to rise again Friday and Saturday.

"(The area) potentially could pick up another inch or two (of rain), so we'll have to watch out for potentially new flooding occurring then," said meteorologist David Hotz with the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn.

While heavy showers on Wednesday failed to pack the punch necessary to cause widespread flooding, this week's storms still are causing plenty of problems.

In Chattanooga, searchers today will resume looking for two men swept down the Tennessee River when their boat capsized Tuesday evening. Officials say swift water is hampering their efforts and likely led to the men going into the water in the first place.

Wednesday's rains had been predicted to be day and evening-long deluges, but that didn't happen.

"Some creeks and rivers may approach bank flow, but the precipitation was not quite as heavy as we thought," said Shirley Lamback, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Ga.

The Chattanooga area was under a flood warning through Wednesday evening, but the rain didn't cause significant traffic problems, authorities said.

Rain and speed may have contributed to a head-on collision on Old Lee Highway that sent two people to a hospital with minor injuries, said Sgt. Al Tallant, head of the Chattanooga Police Department's traffic division.

East Ridge officials monitored Camp Jordan Parkway and the area behind East Ridge hospital for flooding, spokesman Erik Hopkins said.

Camp Jordan Parkway was not closed, as sometimes happens during heavy rains, he said.

"The creek's high, but it's not flood stage yet," Officer Hopkins said.

Flooding caused some road closures in Southeast Tennessee Wednesday.

Dispatchers in Marion County said Browder Switch Road in Jasper, Tenn., and Lassiter Lane in Sequatchie were closed because of high water.

Officials in Bledsoe, Grundy, Franklin and Sequatchie counties said rains hadn't forced any road closures so far.

Emergency officials in those counties said they believed there was enough time between heavy doses of rain for the runoff to drain away.

In Georgia, officials in Murray and Whitfield counties are keeping an eye on areas that flooded in the past.

The only road closure in the area at 4 p.m. was a small section of Norton Bridge Road near the Whitfield/Murray county line, according to Tommy Jones, a driver for the Murray County Road Department.

Jeffrey Putnam, Whitfield County emergency services director, said the Conasauga River was at about 13 feet as of 1 p.m. Wednesday. The river is considered to have reach flood stage at 18 feet.

Mr. Putnam said the area in Whitfield County most prone to flooding is Coahulla Creek, which runs near Prater's and Keith Mills and now is about one foot above flood stage.

"It typically gets out of its banks, but it doesn't affect any residences," he said. "That is all pasture land."

SEARCH FOR MISSING MEN

Staff Photo by Margaret Fenton The search continues near the Rivermont Boat Ramp for two young men missing since Tuesday evening, when their boat capsized in the Tennessee River. Two Volunteer State Rescue boats are performing surface sweeps in an attempt to find the men. Additional boats are expected to aid in the search, though inclement weather may inhibit efforts this afternoon.

Staff Photo by Margaret Fenton The search continues near...

Fast-moving river water and stormy weather limited Wednesday's Hamilton County search for two men thought to be in the Tennessee River after their boat capsized near the Rivermont boat ramp Tuesday night.

Search and rescue crews had trouble using sonar and underwater camera systems because of the water's speed, said Matt Majors, a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer.

The river water moved faster than usual because of an increased release from the Chickamauga Dam meant to keep lakes behind it from rising too quickly because of heavy rains, officials said.

"It's just really not safe for the most part," Officer Majors said. "We can't even see what we're looking at. We don't have a good location to search in."

About 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, a 15-foot fishing boat was anchored in the river when its three occupants noticed the boat was unstable in the swift current, said Bruce Garner, spokesman for the Chattanooga Fire Department.

As one man tried to lift the anchor, the boat capsized and sent his stepfather and a friend into the river. The stepfather swam to shore, but his stepson and his stepson's friend were swept down river, Mr. Garner said. None of the men were wearing life jackets.

Eyewitnesses called 911 and the fire department sent out its fire-rescue boat. The search stretched into Wednesday morning and involved multiple agencies. The fishing boat was recovered downstream a few hours into the search, Mr. Garner said.

Rescuers resumed their search later Wednesday morning and boats performed surface sweeps as family and friends of the young men, who have not been identified, watched from under umbrellas and ponchos.

News of a shoe found in the river about 10 a.m. and of a 6-foot long object found underwater at about 4 p.m. elicited hope among those gathered. The object turned out to be debris.

Friend Tramell Davis said the more than 50 people gathered at the dock were "trying to (keep hope) but it's not likely. We're just trying to be realistic."

By dark, the search had been called off, though crews planned to resume today.


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