Countywide, it's a mess!

Photo by Dave Boyd
Heavy rainfall on already saturated grounds turned these steps into a rushing stream along Stout Hollow Road Thursday afternoon.

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
County Highway Superintendent Jack Perkins and his crew hit Carter County roads at 6 a.m. Thursday, clearing ditches and tiles of rock and debris. But it was too little, too late as far as some homeowners were concerned.
Perkins showed up on Siam Road shortly after noon, where a recently graded side road washed out into the major thoroughfare.
"Dan Cole Road washed away, Lacy Hollow washed away, Minton Hollow, Stoney Creek, around Hunter, Hampton -- we've been in Hampton all day," Perkins said. It was also his fourth visit to the same section of Siam Road this summer.
Eighty-year-old Roy L. Nave lives about a quarter-mile up Siam Road where Perkins' crew worked to divert water from his home. He was out with a shovel trying to unclog a tile and deepen the ditch. His wife sat on the porch across the street and watched as the brown water washed out the garage sale she had planned for the day.
"Every time it comes down through there, my husband has to dig that ditch out in front of the hedge and he has to keep those tiles cleaned out. They won't come and clean them. And this road is heavily traveled -- as fast as they can go," she said.
Two youths in a truck drove by at a high rate of speed, splashing water on Nave. He yelled and waved his shovel as they drove away.
"I want to know why the person that owns this [property] can't do something about it, is what I want to know. There's a tile here, but he came up here the other day and scraped it and filled it up and no water can get through it," Nave said.
Nave's daughter, Loretta Fitzgerald, said her parents had lived at the same residence 52 years. "He has worked himself to death. He put block and concrete walls and a concrete slab all over that ditch. Every time that this has happened, it's been him and him alone -- nobody else in the neighborhood even offers to do anything -- and he has to go up here and clear out where people pile junk in the ditch.
"He's put drains in his basement. He's built a wall around his garage to keep it from going in. He's 80 years old, and there is no reason for him to have to get out and do this when the county, or somebody, should be taking care of the problem," she said.
Constable Ross Potter and his wife, Faye, were out in their yard -- three houses downhill from the Nave residence -- also trying to unclog a tile.
"Everything from Beck Mountain Baptist Church drains down this way," said Potter, who has lived in the same house 55 years.
"This is the highest the water's ever been. The ditch is over my head without the water in there," he said. Yesterday, the ditch was full and the water was rising fast.
"I don't think it would have been all this bad if that lawn chair hadn't got hung up in there," he said. "One of these big ones like you recline on out in the yard and they sunbathe on that's got the fiber strips on it -- I saw it come down and I got a hold of it and I couldn't hold it, and it stuck right there in the end of the tile where that swirl is," he said, pointing to a muddy brown whirlpool. "It's causing it to back up."
The county road crew arrived just in time and used a Gradall to open the tile so that the water could subside.
On Dan Cole Road off Lovers Lane there were a number of unhappy county residents.
Ronald Grimmett, 110 Dan Cole Road, said Thursday was the sixth time his yard has been the unwelcome recipient of flood debris. "I've cleaned it up every time. I asked Jack Perkins to come out and clean it up and they said 'No, they didn't do it.' "
He then asked a local contractor who Grimmett said recently dumped two truckloads of dirt on top of an exposed water main in the ditch in front of Grimmett's home. He, too, refused, Grimmett said.
The rock and dirt "washed down and plugged up this pipe and pushed everything down here into the yard. I just got out here yesterday and mowed every bit of it," he said. Thursday morning, the yard and paved driveway both were full of dirt and rocks.
Because flooding in the area has been a constant problem, and those in authority appear to be passing the buck, Grimmett said, he is consulting with an attorney. Several other residents have told him they, too, would be interested in taking legal action if something isn't done, he said.
Rick Oliver, who lives next door, said Dan Cole Road was so filled with dirt Thursday morning he wouldn't cross it in his 4-wheel-drive vehicle. "I was afraid I would knock my oil pan off."
Marcia Thornton, who lives uphill from Grimmett and his wife, Barbara, said that the drain tile in her driveway gets stopped up and then the water rolls over to the Grimmett's driveway.
"We keep telling Jack Perkins that it's not her fault; it's his fault because he won't fix the thing right," Ronald Grimmett said.
"We've had them out here so many times, it's not even funny," his wife added.
Thornton said the water actually comes from three separate tiles located within close proximity. "Everything rushes down and into my tile and clogs it up."
The problem is also complicated by the fact that the 4-inch main water line which serves the residents on Dan Cole Road is located in the same ditch where two of the tiles are situated. "The highway department is not allowed to get in there and dig. They'd break our main, and then we'd have more water in here," Thornton said.
"We get our water from the North Elizabethton Co-op. If they could find a way to move the main, then the county could maintain that ditch better," she said.
Carter County Sheriff's Department Deputy Loretta Cloyd has resided on the other end of Dan Cole Road for seven years.
"The first year it did not do this, but it wasn't a wet year," she said. "I have dealt with this for six years. Every year I have called down to the road department and asked them, 'Can they not help me in any way whatsoever? Can they not divert some of that water?' "
The problem still persists.
"This water apparently comes off 19E, Fitzsimmons Hill, and a new trailer park up there on the hill. They've got all of that water up there coming down, and they expect all of this water to go behind our houses" and into a culvert under Lovers Lane, Cloyd said. But the culvert apparently is too small to carry the load.
"Two years ago, the road department came out and they were up there looking at it, and I said, 'What can you all do?' And they flat-out told me, 'We don't know how to fix this problem.' So I suggested they find somebody that can fix this problem."
Cloyd said she has received assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help pay for damages, "but every time it does this, I can't call FEMA. And every time it does this, it costs me several hundred dollars because I have to redo everything. We had to take up the carpet, and then we put this [linoleum tile] down. The water has ruined these, and now we're taking these back up," she said, pointing to her living room floor.
"After the water lays here for days like this, you can smell septic. We can't wash clothes or anything because the water will come up in the yard."
At 6 a.m. Thursday, the water was up to the door of Cloyd's patrol car. "I had to run out. I had rubber boots on, and they come up to my knees. The water was so deep that it was going into the top of my boots. I had to get my cars out of the way.

These mobile homes are barely high enough to avoid the rising water.

"I called my neighbor's and I said, 'We're flooding,' and she looked out and said, 'Five more minutes and it would have been in our car.' It did get in one of hers, and one of them wouldn't start," Cloyd said.
Randy Branson, manager of Fleetwood Mobile Homes on U.S. Highway 19E, had water 1-1/2 to 2 feet deep where his show units are located.
"I've had the county road people up here and the city up here trying to figure out why it's not draining. I talked to Ted Leger and he sent somebody up here. They were looking for drains that maybe the grates were covered up. But there is no drain. Inadequate drainage is basically what it is."
Branson said water was coming up underneath his office. "It's come up through the ductwork in the heating system. All of that will have to dry out and then we can see what's happened there. Both of my outside units are under water. One time it cost me about $1,600 to get them repaired where they got water in the motors. It's a mess.
"I had just remulched all of my flowerbeds and paid about $800 for the mulch and to get it hauled and put down. That washed away last week when it flooded," he said.