Little River recedes, but road problems remain
Floodwaters receded across Blount County Wednesday, leaving behind damage to at least two county roads.
But just a day after the water levels began returning to normal, more rain — and possibly snow — is due back in Blount County, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) at Morristown.
A winter storm warning was issued today for Southwest Virginia, North Carolina and East Tennessee, including Maryville and the northwest area of Blount County. The watch will be in effect nearly all day.
Rain is certain and, with a high of only 41 degrees today, snow could begin falling after 1 p.m. Snow accumulation could be between 2 and 5 inches. Forecasters advised that brisk northerly winds will be responsible for pulling colder air into the region, which will change rain to snow.
Rain and snow are likely before 10 p.m., but the chance of snow drops dramatically after that, according to the forecast. The possibility of heavy snowfall this afternoon and evening could pull down trees and power lines in some areas, leading to localized power outages.
Friday and Saturday are expected to be mostly sunny with highs near 42 and 53, respectively. Sunday will be mostly sunny with a high near 46.
Townsend Volunteer Fire Department Chief Don Stallions said that while the around-the-clock collaboration the Townsend Police and Fire departments had going the past two days came to an end Wednesday morning, that 24-hour staffing would return if inclement weather is imminent.
And while Townsend officials got a break Wednesday after water levels began to recede, there was quite a bit of damage left behind.
“The water is going down fast,” a relieved Townsend Police Chief Ronnie Suttles said Wednesday afternoon. “Little River is back down to the high-water stage. We’re in good shape in Townsend.”
Stallions said the river, which had risen to at least 6,700 cubic feet per second Tuesday night, had receded to around 3,500 cubic feet Wednesday night.
The American Red Cross shelter which had been established at Tuckaleechee United Methodist Church in Townsend Monday was closed Wednesday afternoon, Stallions said.
Barring any overnight developments, Blount County schools were expected to be back in session today after two days out.
The lingering problems included a huge wet-weather spring that washed out silt fill dirt used in a section of a main road in the Homestead Subdivision.
The Homestead development is at the top of the mountain at the Blount-Sevier County line in Walland. On the Blount side it is reached by East Miller’s Cove Road.
The slide washed the silt one-fourth mile down the mountainside.
“I was here when they built this road. That was a dry valley,” said Ronnie Sharp of the Blount County Highway Department. “There has never been a creek up here.”However, Wednesday from the road it sounded like a river was flowing down the mountain, said Blount County Storm Water Coordinator Justin Teague.
“A big, wet-weather spring developed somewhere up on that mountain,” Sharp said. “On the way down the force of the slide snapped and broke trees. We’re afraid we’ll lose the road.”Ordinarily the mild Reed’s Creek runs down from the top of the mountain beside East Miller’s Cove Road. The creek was clear at the top of the mountain Wednesday but the new stream, which was the same size as Reed’s Creek, turned the water a light gold all the way down the cove.
Stress cracks have developed in much of the asphalt for what appeared to be 200 feet.
Part of the shoulder had broken away from the asphalt portion of the road and dropped down about one foot.
The highway department barricaded the road Wednesday afternoon and made it one lane for the present time.
If the road has to be closed, residents on one side could go out through Blount County and those on the other side through Sevier County.
Blount County Highway Superintendent Bill Dunlap said he and Sharp will go out there early this morning to determine what to do about the problem.
Sharp said 911 has notified Sevier County officials of the problem.
Developers built the road to Blount County specifications, and the county then accepted the road as a county road.
Fixing the problem could prove very expensive for a highway department that is crunched financially.
Teague said the area was saturated with the 6½ inches of rain it had received and the subsurface stream came out of the mountain like a river.
Dunlap said part of the problem is “how are we going to stop that water?”
Sharp said, “I’ve worked for the highway department 28 years, and I can’t remember having anything this destructive happen.”
New tile delivered
The good news for the county is that floodwaters went down enough to dig out a collapsed tile culvert at Carr’s Creek Road in Townsend, Dunlap said.
A 5-foot-wide and 40-foot-long tile was delivered to the highway yard Wednesday and plans are for a crew to replace the damaged tile early today and get the road reopened.
Carr’s Creek was such a raging torrent on Tuesday that highway workers could not dig out the tile immediately.
The replacement tile is 10 feet longer than the present tile.
On Wednesday morning the highway crews began pumping water off a section of Grey Ridge Road.