Tornadic storms that thrashed Hamilton County on Friday tore three chains on a river restaurant barge and sent a dock flailing into the Tennessee River across from Ross's Landing, officials say.
High winds and waves tore the walkway from the barge in three places, leaving one end attached while two sections floated 40 feet into the busy waterway, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
By Monday afternoon, workers were getting ready to reattach the dock to the restaurant barge.
B. Allen Casey, the founder of the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel, owns the empty barge and plans to transform it into a $3 million restaurant, though it is currently resting on the bottom of the river, he said Monday.
The Corps of Engineers has ruled that the barge is "noncompliant" in its current state, and is now pressing Casey for a plan to fix the structure on a deadline, said public affairs specialist Lee Roberts.
It appears decrepit from the outside, but the barge remains a valuable structure because of the unique steel I-beams that hold it together, Casey said.
"Some people think it's a piece of junk but they don't know the plans," he said.
As soon as the water level gets low enough, he said, he'll pump out the water and re-stabilize the platform. However, with many workers helping clean up the tornado mess elsewhere on the river, it may be some time before the structure is floating again.
Workers were originally slated to start gutting the first floor as early as next week to prepare the barge for the two restaurants planned eventually for the structure, Casey said.
"All that said, we can't do anything until the thing is raised," Casey said.
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