A few local areas encounter rising waters

A few local areas encounter rising waters

March 10th, 2011 by Adam Crisp and Andy Johns in News

East Ridge resident Dan Fletcher judges floods by a stake across the street that marks his neighbor's address.

As waters rise from a nearby creek, "first it's 1528, then it's 152," he said. "Then it's 15, then it's 1."

But the method stopped working Wednesday.

"Now you can't even see it," said Fletcher, who has lived on Springvale Road since 1993.

Roughly 3 inches of rain fell in the Chattanooga area between Tuesday afternoon and midday Wednesday. The deluge came down just three days after a similar shower dumped 4 inches of rain in less than a day.

Forecasters and emergency workers were concerned about where all the water would go since the ground is saturated and weekend storms brought creek levels right up to flood stage. But officials now say the area will squeak by with little problem.

"If we would have had 4 or 5 inches, we would have a different story," said Paul Barys, meteorologist for WRCB-Channel 3. "But from everything I've seen, this was just minor flooding."

By Wednesday evening, most of the rain had moved east. Barys predicts chilly but dry weather today and temperatures in the mid-60s with sunny skies by the weekend.

Cars pass through a mostly flooded Bonny Oaks Drive near Highway 153 Wednesday afternoon.

Cars pass through a mostly flooded Bonny Oaks...

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

Some creek levels stand to rise a another foot or so before noon today, but even then most models show the floodwaters at South Chickamauga Creek in East Ridge and Lookout Creek in Trenton - two of the area's worst flooding culprits - will rise and fall without entering homes or damaging much property.

Still, water got close enough to some homes to stir images of fall 2009, when flooding led to major evacuations across the Chattanooga area and one drowning death in North Georgia.

In Lookout Valley, John Lively and a neighbor were cutting up a tree that had fallen across his driveway on Garden Road.

"It sounded like a freight train going overhead, so I don't know if it's a tornado or just high winds," said Lively as EPB trucks arrived down the street to work on toppled trees tangled in power lines. "I'm surprised there aren't more [trees] down with the ground as soggy as it is."

Wind speeds during the rain averaged about 14 mph, with some gusts getting up to 20 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Morristown, Tenn. There were no reports of tornadoes such as the funnels that damaged homes and knocked out power Feb. 28.

About 2 p.m. Wednesday in East Ridge, a few houses down from Dan Fletcher on Springvale, Charley Heaton and his dog Koa stood on their front porch, keeping tabs on the rising water. In September 2009 the water was inches away from getting in his duplex, Heaton said, but Wednesday he still had a few feet of clearance.

"It's probably going to go up a little more before it goes down," said Heaton. "I hope it doesn't get any higher."

Across the street, Dave Yap carried his daughter Bella on his shoulders as the family walked up the street where he had parked his Jeep.

"This is fun," the 4-year-old shouted as her father slogged through water above his knees.

The Yaps were headed to Hixson to stay with family members.

The rising water had "slowed down a little," Yap said optimistically. "I don't think it's going to get my carport, so I'm happy about that."

His wife, Leslie, was concerned about her new washer and dryer, which were in the utility room.

"I'm hoping it doesn't get up that high," she said.

East Ridge police spokesman Eric Hopkins said just because the rains are over doesn't mean the danger has passed. South Chickamauga Creek often doesn't crest until hours after the storms are over, when water from feeder streams finally flow down to the creek's main branch, he said.

"The next 24 to 48 hours will be critical for us," Hopkins said at midday Wednesday.

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