Flood water drenches area

Rainfall precipitates building collapse at Milligan College

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   Flood water saturated yards and filled basements in Carter County and caused the collapse of the maintenance building at Milligan College on Saturday afternoon.
   The college's metal maintenance building just off Alf Taylor Road broke almost in half with the middle portion collapsing into a sinkhole produced by the saturated ground.
   "The rain played a part in it with the saturated earth," said Stacey Archer, shift commander with the Elizabethton Fire Department, which responded to the scene shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday. "When the ground gets saturated, it'll move the earth."
   The red, two-story metal building was disjoined almost in two when the ground gave way. A portion of the building dropped several feet straight down while the remaining part of the structure stayed partially intact. Sounds of creaking metal were audible near the structure as the building teetered on the brink of collapsing completely. "The whole building is unstable," said Archer.
   Security officer Mike Waycaster had just arrived for his evening security shift at the building when the collapse occurred. He was in the building when the floor began to give way.
   "I had just come on shift when it happened," said Waycaster, who works for Murray Guard as a security officer. "I heard it creaking, I heard it popping and I got out." Waycaster was the only person in the building and did not sustain injuries.
   The maintenance building contained physical and grounds maintenance equipment for the college. Two vehicles normally stored in the building were at a local vehicle dealership for service when the incident occurred, according to firemen.
   Workers of Atmos Energy disconnected a natural gas line running into the building after its collapse. The Elizabethton Electric System cut power to the building, Archer said.
   The rainfall and flooding problems forced the City of Elizabethton to issue a water conservation alert for water customers in Elizabethton, Watauga, North Elizabethton and Chinquapin area. The city urged residents not to use water for any non-essential purpose until further notice.
   Water created numerous problems for property owners and washed over several roads throughout the county. Pools of water stood in front yards of numerous residences along the 2000 block of State Line Road near Grindstaff Avenue. Residents of the Hunter and Stoney Creek communities also suffered flooded basements and yards on Saturday as rainfall pummeled the area during the week.
   Debbie Street telephoned the Star and said flood water had begun rising in her parents' residence on Sunrise Drive this morning.
   "It is in my mother and father's home and some of it is receded a little bit but some is still in my mom and dad's yard," said Street. "There are some homes down below them that have water in their basements."
   The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for several counties in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, including Carter, Johnson and Sullivan counties.
   Temperatures reached into the high 60-degree range on Saturday generating precipitation around the area. The weather service had called for continued occasional showers and thunderstorms on Saturday night mixing with or changing to snow showers later. An inch or less of snow accumulation is possible mainly for the higher elevations of Carter and other surrounding counties.