Firefighters rescue six, including infant, as flash flooding drenches Hardin County

After helping evacuate a woman and her 7-month-old infant from their home on Proud Land Lane, firefighters Shamas Blakney, center with face visible, Buck McClendon, walking away from the camera, and David Kirkwood, far right, remain at the scene.

Tuesday night’s torrential downpour caused flash flooding in many areas in east Hardin County, prompting several emergency high water rescues and leaving a large number of roads under water, damaged and impassable.
“It was almost like there was a target on Savannah last night, with a bullseye right over top of you guys. Our rain gauge at Savannah measured 6.77 inches of rain last night,” said Tennessee Valley Authority River Operations Support Manager Darrell Guinn, who works at the TVA River Forecast Center in Knoxville.
The official data from the National Weather Service is not yet available, but according to hardincountyweather.com, the wettest day on record is Aug. 18, 2010 with 5.9 inches of rain.
If so, last night was a record setter.
The downpour kept both Hardin County Fire Department Chief Melvin Martin and Highway Superintendent Steve Cromwell busy since before daybreak.
“We’ve been doing high water rescues since about 2:30 this morning,” Martin said this afternoon.
“The flash flooding across east Hardin County was very dangerous. Our initial call came in about 2:35, as a tree across a power line near Gobbler Branch Lane – but before anyone made the scene we got our first call from someone needing help escaping their flooded house,” he said.
A little over a dozen HCFD firefighters used their high water rescue vehicle plus two boats to rescue six people from flood waters and check on others. Martin said they wrapped up about 8 a.m.
“We got two out of their house on Highway 203, an elderly gentleman and his dog from his home on Proud Land Lane. The Red Cross is putting him up and he’ll probably be able to go back home tomorrow,” Martin said.
He continued, “We evacuated a woman and her 7-month-old infant from another home on Proud Land Lane, and we evaluated two on Cerro Gordo Lane, but the water didn’t seem to be rising any further and they opted to stay.”
Martin said firefighters rescued one man who was trapped on top of his camper without a phone.
“That was on Gobbler Branch Lane. He was on top of his camper. I think they said it even turned over or on its side, and we went and got him there, sitting on top of it.”
Martin said he isn’t aware of any injuries, but “several houses had water in them, so that’s going to take a good bit of cleanup, and there are several vehicles at those homes that are water damaged.”
Road damage report
Hardin County Highway Superintendent Steve Cromwell said the roads in east Hardin County took a beating, leaving his department with a lot of work in the next several days.
“There’s so much damage I can’t even describe it all right now. Several roads have heavy damage and quite a few are impassable. A bunch are still under water, and probably will be until tomorrow,” Cromwell said.
He said the major road damage occurred in the areas of Olive Hill Road, Burnt Church Road, Lonesome Pine Road, Sutton Hollow Road, Choate Creek Lane, Rogers Drive and Low Water Bridge Road.
“Just that whole area got hit really hard. I can’t even name ‘em all right now. We’ve got crews out working, as well as outside contractors to help. We’re going to get the roads open as soon as possible, but it’s not going to be overnight,” Cromwell said.
He noted that roads in the northwest areas of Hardin County sustained damage from severe weather over the weekend, and the highway department had to stop work on those areas to get to the damaged roads in east Hardin County today.
“In a day or so I’ll have a complete list of what roads are damaged and hopefully a better estimate of the extent of the damage, but a lot of it is still under water,” Cromwell said.
Tennessee River flooding update
TVA river support manager Guinn said what most Hardin countians are seeing as far as flooding right now is from Tuesday night’s unusually heavy rain, which fell on already saturated ground from other recent severe weather.
“Much of the area is experiencing localized flooding from last night’s rain – you’re seeing ditches full, creeks over their banks, ponds full. The majority of that’s not coming from the Tennessee River, that’s water pooling on saturated ground before it gets to the river,” Guinn said.
Operationally, Guinn said, TVA has been running a fairly consistent flow over the past several days through Pickwick Dam, at about 200,000 cubic feet of water per second.
“We’ll be allowing Pickwick Lake to go above normal summer pool. We’re filling the reservoir all the way to the top of the spill gates and slowing the flow as much as possible, to give Savannah as much help with the flooding as possible,” Guinn said.
He said with all of the recent rainfall the entire river is swollen, and all nine main dams are spilling water in an attempt to move the massive amount of rain that has fallen across the Tennessee River Valley.
He noted that TVA will be allowing the flow at Pickwick to drift up to about 225,000 cfs over the next 24 hours. The agency predicts the river at Savannah to crest at about 380-381 feet above sea level.
The latest observed river level at Savannah as of 3:15 p.m. today is 378.9 feet. Flood stage is at 370, and major flood stage is at 386 feet.
“The good news is, we’re expecting dry conditions – no rain – for several days. There is no rain in our extended forecast, and that’s good news for everyone,” Guinn said.
TVA cautions all boaters to be aware of the high river level and increased speed of the river, as they cause very dangerous conditions.
“We’re asking all boaters to stay away from the dams – all accidents are avoidable. We’re moving a tremendous amount of water through the system right now, and along with the river being higher and faster, that brings a lot of debris which may be floating just under the surface of the water,” said TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler.
He added, “We’re asking all folks to be very cognizant of the hazards, because one mistake could be fatal – as we’ve unfortunately seen recently. Don’t let that be you.”

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