Surgoinsville residents keep a watchful eye on a barge that came to rest against one of the piers of the bridge across the Holston Wednesday. Photo by David Grace.
ROGERSVILLE — Continuous rain and high water caused problems all over Hawkins County Wednesday affecting roads, bridges, power outages and schools.
Wednesday night the Hawkins County Airport was reporting 5.91 inches of rain over the previous 72 hours, while WRGS radio in Rogersville was at 6.07 inches.
The John Sevier Fossil Plant just south of Rogersville was at 6.51 inches Wednesday night for the three consecutive days of rain.
According to the National Weather Service another 1.5 inches is expected to fall before this weather system leaves the region, sometime between 10 and 11 p.m. Thursday.
Wednesday in Hawkins County rain and high water made its presence known from one end of the county to the other.
A landslide on Route 31 near Mooresburg blocked the road around 3:30 a.m.
By dawn the Tennessee Department of Transportation had opened it up to one lane, and the road was cleared by about 10:30 a.m.
Around 7 a.m. Wednesday the top of a utility pole broke on a hillside above Broadway Street in Rogersville, knocking out power for 1,136 households on the south side of the city. By 11:40 a.m. Holston Electric Cooperative had power restored to all customers.
Wednesday morning as the Holston River was reportedly rising three inches per hour, a platform barge being used for the construction of a new Longs Bend Road bridge over the Holston River in Surgoinsville broke loose and got struck under the old Longs Bend Road Bridge.
Big Creek lived up to its name Wednesday. The National Weather Service said that as of Friday Big Creek’s water level near Rogersville was at two feet. Seven feet is considered flood stage, and as of Wednesday evening Big Creek had risen to nine feet.
The North Fork of the Holston River, which is also the Hawkins/Sullivan county line in Kingsport, was also reported at flood stage Wednesday.
The North Fork was cresting at 13.61 feet, above the normal 12 feet. Big Elm Road which runs along the river on the Hawkins County side was flooded and closed.
There was a little bit of good news Wednesday as water receded on many roads that had been flooded and closed on Tuesday.
Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency director Gary Murrell said some roads remained closed, however, including Old Route 70 in Persia, Van Hill Road in the Beech Creek community and Barrett Hollow Road near the Stanley Valley community.
Blevins Road near Surgoinsville, which runs beside Big Creek north of Highway 11-W, was also closed due to flooding.
Murrell said that as of Wednesday night no injuries had been reported as a result of rain and flooding. There have been some motorists, however, who haven’t heeded the warning — “Go around, don’t drown.”
“We’ve had some cars that didn’t make it, that ended up completely under water,” Murrell added. “Some people don’t understand that a car won’t float. We’re standing in the roadway with ‘road closed’ signs on both ends, road closed signs before you get there, and here comes cars trying to drive across.
“I know we lost two cars on Big Elm Road into the river. The water was plumb up to the steering wheel on one, and the person is trying to drive through it. Of course, that didn’t work.”
The county highway department was working Wednesday with county fire and police to assess road damage and determine a priority list for making repairs.
For the third straight day Hawkins County Schools will be closed Thursday due to concerns over high water, flash flooding, and damaged roads on bus routes. Rogersville City School is also closed.