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Flood aftermath: Road closings, rescues, help for victims

Sequatchie County Rescue Squad rescues a woman trapped in her house by flood waters. (VIDEO)

Feb. 24, 2019 – At midday Sunday, there were still some roads closed due to flooding and one last rescue going on in Sequatchie County. Due to widespread flooding, Sequatchie County Schools will be closed Monday, Feb. 25.

The Sequatchie Valley reported around 3 inches of rain over the weekend – from Thursday, Feb. 21, through Sunday, Feb. 24. And the continuous rain on already saturated soil resulted in extensive flooding throughout the area.

"The state is working at damage assessment for the county," according to Sequatchie County Emergency Management Director Winfred Smith.  "The governor is looking at a presidential declaration."  An emergency declaration would help uninsured victims of the flood with their loss, he said.

The old middle school on Heard Street was flooded when the basement boiler room filled with water, which then began to fill the rooms on the main floor, causing extensive damage to the senior center, the community food bank, and other offices.

As late as 2 p.m. Sunday a section of US 127 north, from McWilliams Road to Pailo Market was closed with water over the highway, and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) was detouring traffic via Old State Hwy. 28. Not far down the road, the Mt. Airy Golf Course was under water.

TDOT closed part of TN 127 at Mt. Airy due to flooding.

Other local areas still flooded on Sunday included: Hayden Wilson Road, Harmon Drive, Creekview Lane, and Brushy Creek Mobile Home Park, along with the section of John Burch closest to US 127 and Old York Hwy. E. close to the Humpback Bridge. A section of East Valley also was closed, on the Bledsoe County side.

TN 111, which had been partially closed east of Dunlap, was clear on Sunday.

RESCUES

Local volunteer emergency personnel were busy over the weekend, rescuing people stranded by the rapidly rising flood waters.

Southend Fire Chief Ken Herron tells of saving two people from rushing flood waters Saturday night.

On Saturday evening about 6:30 p.m., a couple called 911 when they were trapped in their vehicle on Condra Switch, in south Sequatchie County. The unidentified middle-aged couple had driven their Bronco around a “Road Closed” barricade and into the water.

When the car engine drowned out, the pair opened the doors in an attempt to walk to safety, but found themselves in deep, swiftly flowing flood waters. The woman was swept downstream by the swift current and into water estimated to be 10-12 feet deep.

The current took her off her feet,” Southend Fire Chief Ken Herron said. “The man was still at the car. When we got there, we heard them screaming.”

Firefighters from both Marion County and Sequatchie County responded to the emergency, driving a military truck in as far as they could. Then Chief Herron and two of his firefighters tied ropes around their waist and swam out to where the couple was stranded.

The woman was hanging on to a slender tree, and her rescuers took one of their ropes and tied it around her, to allow her to be pulled to safety. Then they rescued the man, in the same way.

The current was so strong,” Chief Herron said, “we were lucky to get them out.”

The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) is investigating the accident, Smith said.

A second rescue was carried out just today, by the Sequatchie County Rescue Squad.

Melissa Cooley, who works at the Sequatchie County Justice Center on the night shift, found her yard partially flooded when she got in from work early Sunday, but because the rain had stopped and the day promised to be sunny and clear, she simply pulled in by way of the neighbor's driveway and parked in front of her house.

But when she woke up some hours later, she found the house completely surrounded by a rushing flood too deep to wade through. Knowing she had to work later today, she called the Justice Center and told them of her predicament. They called the Rescue Squad, and volunteers stopped by the Cooley home to see how deep the water appeared to be.

A big beaver swam by as they watched.  Then Rescue Squad Captain Michael Scoggins walked into the water with his waders on. When the water got up to his hips, he and his companions decided they would need a boat.

About 2 p.m., the Rescue Squad returned with a flat-bottom boat. They tied a rope to one end and mounted a trolling motor on the other end, and motored across the large yard to the porch, where the family – and the family dog – waited.

Since Melissa was the only one in immediate need of leaving the house, other family members stayed home, watching as she climbed in the boat to be taken to shore. The dog, while not willing to venture into the water, whined and barked anxiously as the boat crossed the water.

Volunteers also started to rescue a horse Saturday that was trapped by a fence in rising flood waters, but the horse found her own way out, just as they readied their boat for the rescue.

SHELTER AND SUPPLIES

The Rescue Squad building on Rankin Avenue was opened as an emergency shelter Saturday, with about 25-30 people staying there overnight. Smith said they had all left by Sunday morning, and the shelter is now closed.

The Red Cross is preparing to deliver bulk items and cleaning items to Brush Creek Trailer Park and Court Street Trailer Park, he added, and the Salvation Army plans to provide food to the same communities.

Officers, Rescue Squad and neighbors responded to help this horse, that was caught in a fence, escape from flood waters near the Sequatchie River. Luckily she managed to untangle herself as first responders were preparing to enter the waters in a boat. She is safe now and doing well. Photo courtesy of Dunlap Police Department.