Days of heavy rain in the Deep South flooded roads and triggered landslides and evacuations as residents prepared for what could be a very dangerous weekend of flooding.
More than 100 people were evacuated from the Mississippi town of Bruce on Friday as flooding spilled from the nearby Skuna River, city alderman Jimmy Hubbard told the Associated Press, adding that the scene near the town of 2,000 is “total chaos.”
In a 24-hour period from noon Thursday to noon Friday, the river jumped by 18 feet, according to an automated gauge.
Residents living south of Jimmy Beckley Road in the town were urged to evacuate, Calhoun County Sheriff Greg Pollan told WTVA.com.
Also in Calhoun County, five people were rescued from high waters. No further details had been released.
— Morgan Burger (@MorganBurgerTV) February 22, 2019
Homes were reportedly flooded both in the city and county of Grenada, according to the Grenada Star. Vehicles were under water in some areas and boats were being used to rescue several residents from a flooded neighborhood.
City Manager Trey Baker and Benji Britt, transportation director for the Grenada School District, warned residents about the dangers of driving through high waters during a flash flooding event.
“There will barricades set up, but if you see a road covered in water, don’t hesitate and turn around,” Baker said.
So far, the flooding and mudslides have been blamed for one death in Tennessee. Here’s a closer look at the impacts from this prolonged rain event.
At the Lighthouse Church of Christ Jesus in Bruce, Rev. Eddie Spearman did everything possible to keep the floodwaters from entering the church, but the relentless rainfall flooded the structure multiple times this week, he told the AP. Despite an attempt to place sandbags around the church to keep the inside dry, it was still inundated by water more than a foot deep, the report added.
“It got the piano and organ and all of that stuff,” Spearman told the AP. “I’m lost. I don’t know what to do until all the water goes down.”
The rising Mississippi River caused some flooding issues in the Vicksburg area, WAPT.com reported Thursday.
About 10 roads in low-lying areas outside Vicksburg and 15 roads within city limits were flooded, Warren County Emergency Management Director John Elfer told the news station.
“Some areas are already flooded, so it’s nothing unusual. These events, they begin slowly and they leave slowly,” Elfer said.
Residents in Colbert County fled from high water Friday at the Nathan Estates residential area south of Muscle Shoals, according to WAFF.com.
Colbert County EMA Director Mike Melton noted that no homes had been inundated and emphasized that this is not an evacuation because residents had asked for help in leaving.
The Tennessee Valley Authority closed the road and bridge over Wilson Dam in northern Alabama Wednesday due to hazardous conditions created by the heavy rain.
TVA spokesperson Scott Fiedler told the Birmingham Times Daily the road and bridge would remain closed until further notice.
“We want to make sure everyone is safe during this event,” Fiedler said.
TVA notes that it is releasing water at all of its dams on the main stem of the Tennessee River to accommodate the heavy rains expected in the days to come.
“With above average rainfall totals on already-saturated ground possible next week, we are moving lots of water through the system to create as much storage as possible in our reservoirs while also limiting flows to protect downstream areas,” said James Everett, senior manager for TVA’s River Forecast Center.
(PHOTOS: Flooding, Landslides in the Deep South)
Winds in DeKalb County reportedly knocked down dozens of trees. One person was rescued Wednesday from a vehicle that was driven into standing water on Highway 17 near the city of Florence and a person was rescued from a tractor swept into a creek by rising water in Tuscumbia.
As the Tennessee River continued to swell on Friday, flooding threatened the famed Hagy’s Catfish Hotel in Savannah, not far from the Shiloh National Battlefield, the AP reported. Restaurant manager Joey McAfee said he expected the restaurant to flood for the first time since 2004 before the water eventually recedes.
“We’ve got three garbage dumpsters that have already floated off,” he told the AP.
Early Thursday, a large landslide took out both lanes of Highway 70N in Hawkins County. After several hours of searching, crews recovered the body of Steven Lawson, 62, of Jonesborough, the Kingsport Times-News reported.
Emergency personnel reported that at least two vehicles were involved in the slide and one other person was transported to an area hospital, according to WBIR.com. The slide prompted local authorities to advise nearby residents to voluntarily evacuate their homes.
“It was a voluntary evacuation,” said Hawkins County Rescue Squad Captain Scott Stewart. “Some of the families left, there were a few, I think one, that was a good distance away from it, they went to them to make sure they knew there was an issue with the road and offered them a way out, but they refused.”
We are getting a first look at the early morning slide that has closed Highway 70N in Hawkins County. According to emergency personnel, two vehicles were involved, one person taken to the hospital. pic.twitter.com/aDmjivNTp5
— Mark Nagi (@MarkNagiTDOT) February 21, 2019
West of Nashville, residents living along the Cumberland River in Cheatham County evacuated their homes Thursday as the flooding risk intensified.
“We’re letting them know that the rain’s coming,” Edwin Hogan, director of the county Emergency Management Agency, told WKRN.com. “They need to make preparations to get out of the area, and stay out till the water recedes.”
In Pigeon Forge, where the the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River notoriously rises during lengthy rain events, swift water rescue crews are on standby.
“We need razor sharp focus,” said Pigeon Forge Fire Chief Tony Watson. “With Mother Nature, you never know what’s going to happen, but we’re going to be prepared if it does.”
In north-central Tennessee, flooding prompted officials in Overton County to declare a state of emergency, enabling the county to obtain extra resources, WKRN.com reported.
Officials announced Friday that the U.S. 51 bridge that connects the Bluegrass State to Cairo, Illinois, would be closed indefinitely because high water cut off the approach on the Kentucky side, the AP reported. The bridge will be closed until at least Thursday; the I-24 bridge at Paducah, Kentucky, would serve as a detour, the report added.
In all, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet reported Friday that there were 152 roads closed in the state because of high water.
Earlier in the week, the water level at Lake Cumberland reached 740 feet above sea level, the highest it’s been since 1998, WKYT.com reported. The record is 751.42, set in 1984.
A couple reported that they were nearly crushed Wednesday when part of the rock wall gave way just above U.S. 127, south of Wolf Creek Dam, WYMT.com reported. The couple told the station that they were looking at Lake Cumberland when the collapse took place.
Flooding of roadways was also reported in Paducah, according to the National Weather Service. In the town of Clinton, a large landslide was reported Wednesday morning. It was one of several landslides reported in eastern Kentucky Wednesday.
Four people were rescued Thursday after spending 14 hours overnight on top of their Jeep that was stranded in floodwaters, the Louisville Courier Journal reported. A fifth occupant of the Jeep waded through 4 feet of water to seek help. The rescued were transported to an area hospital with hypothermia symptoms but were later released.