Lauren Bailey and Nicholas Niemeyer had less than 30 minutes to put everything they could on top of the bed and get out before the flood hit.
"We had no idea it was flooded until someone came and told us we had to move our car because the water was rising," said Ms. Bailey, who lives on the first floor of Superior Creek Lodge in East Ridge.
On Thursday morning, residents of the extended-stay hotel waited for officials to let them back into their rooms so they could assess damage to their belongings.
Melissa Kimsey, who'd been living at the hotel since July with her husband and four children, said her family lost a whole week of groceries and most of their clothes.
"People didn't have time to evacuate," said Ms. Kimsey, tears in her eyes.
A police officer was blocking Mack Smith Road off of Ringgold Road and telling residents they couldn't go in until about 1 p.m. Thursday because of sanitation concerns.
Erik Hopkins, East Ridge police spokesman, said city crews on Thursday cleaned up streets, removed debris and sediment, then applied a layer of lime to eliminate any fecal matter that may have been in roadways and right of ways. Trash containers also were placed in key locations so residents could dump their water-soaked items, he said.
By Thursday afternoon, there still were more than 150 people in the East Ridge shelter set up by the Greater Chattanooga Area American Red Cross. About 200 people were evacuated on Tuesday just from Superior Creek Lodge, Mr. Hopkins said.
On Thursday, teams of local and state emergency management agencies surveyed the damage to homes and infrastructure as waters began to recede.
Tennessee Department of Transportation bridge inspectors and maintenance crews have been working since before the flood to make sure roadways and bridges would be OK, said Jennifer Flynn, spokeswoman for TDOT.
Last Thursday, before the floods, TDOT personnel inspected bridges to ensure they were in good shape and they will re-inspect them next week, once the water recedes, she said.
Gov. Phil Bredesen announced Thursday that he has asked the Tennessee and Federal Emergency Management Agencies to do preliminary damage assessments for Hamilton and Hardin Counties to see if they qualify for federal disaster assistance. Officials with TEMA and FEMA will begin that process on Monday, he said in a press release.
"Our first responders performed extremely well in assisting people out of harm's way," Gov. Bredesen said. "I would now like to see the damage assessments conducted as soon as possible so individuals affected by the flooding can receive all eligible assistance to assist with their recovery."
But there could be more assessments needed after this weekend. More rain is projected for the weekend, according to Brian Boyd, service hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn. From half an inch to two inches is expected on Saturday in some pocket areas, he said.
"The ground is soaked now and is not going to dry out very much, so even two inches of rain make a difference," he said.
About 40 miles from East Ridge, Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and Rep. Jim Cobb, R-Spring City, met with local city and county officials to discuss the newly formed North Hamilton-Rhea County Creek Management Task Force -- designed to address flooding and land-use issues.
"Geographically this is a unique area of watershed, because there's so much water coming down the plateau in the area," Sen. Watson said. "Our main problem is how do we maintain what we currently have?"
A couple of blocks from Superior Creek Lodge, Sherry Serrano tried to clean her house and dry out her van.
"I returned (Wednesday) to see the damage and I didn't know where to begin. I was shocked," she said.
* To make a donation to the Red Cross, visit https://secure141.websitewelcome.com/~redcross/donate/index.php or send your check, made out to The Greater Chattanooga Area American Red Cross, to 801 McCallie Ave., Chattanooga, TN 37403.
* The Salvation Army is asking monetary donations be mailed to: The Salvation Army, 822 McCallie Ave., Chattanooga, TN, 37403, or donate online at www.csarmy.org. For more information, including the need for volunteers, call 423-756-1023.
TO RECEIVE HELP
* Rossville Church of Christ, 1100 McFarland Ave., Rossville, Ga., in conjunction with the Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Inc., will receive another shipment of relief supplies for those affected by the recent flooding in the Chattanooga area today. The supplies will include water, juice, rakes, cleaning supplies, mops, buckets, baby diapers, food boxes, work gloves and fans, among other items. Contact the church via e-mail at email@example.com or call 706-866-1119.
* The United Way of Greater Chattanooga, in coordination with the American Red Cross and the East Ridge Hotel/Motel Association, are working to provide shelter for affected residents on a case-by-case basis. To receive more information and assistance, contact the United Way of Greater Chattanooga at 2-1-1.
* Affected residents who have questions in regard to mold should contact the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department's Environmental Services at 423-209-8110. For questions on odor and pollution, contact the Air Pollution Control Bureau at 423-209-8235.
* On Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., a Community Assistance Center will be located at the East Ridge Community Center, 1515 Tombras Ave. The center will offer limited assistance to those affected by the flood in Hamilton County and North Georgia.