Residents asked to brace for flood risks

By Abby Morris-Frye
star staff
amorris@starhq.com

  Residents of Northeast Tennessee are once again asked to brace for the effects of the remnants of an Atlantic hurricane expected to pass through the area over the weekend.
  One week ago, portions of Northeast Tennessee and Western North Carolina were struck hard by the remains of Hurricane Frances. Rivers overflowed their banks; roads and bridges washed out, and rockslides and mudslides closed some roads.
  Rain fell in Northeast Tennessee beginning late at night on Sept. 7 and continued for most of the day on Sept. 8.
  Heavy flooding in Newland, N.C. washed down the Doe River, damaging some roadways and bridges in Roan Mountain before flowing to Elizabethton and damaging a portion of the Weir Dam just down stream from the historic Covered Bridge.
  The Nolichucky River overflowed its banks from North Carolina to Erwin to Greeneville.
  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Hurricane Ivan will hit the Gulf Coast Thursday morning and move toward the Southern Appalachian region. "Because this storm is so large, rainfall associated with Ivan will begin across the area around sunrise Thursday morning," states a weather advisory issued by NOAA for the Northeast Tennessee area. "Light to moderate rain is expected across the area on Thursday, with heavier rainfall possible Thursday night through Friday.
  "In addition, this system is expected to slow down and stall out over the Tennessee Valley by the weekend. If this happens there will be an extended period of rainfall which could result in large rainfall totals by Sunday."
  The NOAA forecast predicts that the valley areas will experience between four and six inches of rain with higher elevations receiving up to eight-to-12 inches.
  "The greatest threat from the remnants of Ivan for the local (Northeast Tennessee) area will be flooding of rivers and streams due to the long duration and widespread nature of the rainfall," the NOAA weather advisory states. "This event has the potential to become a very dangerous and significant flooding situation. The exact track of Ivan is still uncertain, and any deviation from the current forecast track will affect how much rain is actually observed.
  "Residents of East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and extreme Southwest North Carolina should continue to monitor the progress of Ivan and its potential flooding impact on the local area."
  Kurt Pickering, with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, said state officials are watching two aspects of the storm system associated with Hurricane Ivan: Whether numerous people will evacuate other states and head into Tennessee and what kind of weather Tennessee will experience.
  "At the moment, we're monitoring the situation," Pickering said.
  According to Pickering, TEMA is in contact with federal officials and officials in other areas that could potentially be impacted by the hurricane, but there were no plans in place Wednesday afternoon to open any emergency centers.
  Pickering said reports sent to him on Wednesday indicated that tropical force winds currently extend 200 miles out from the center of the hurricane, making it approximately 400 miles wide.
  NOAA is predicting rain showers and thunderstorms for the Elizabethton and Carter County area beginning Thursday morning and continuing throughout the day on Friday. On Friday night and Saturday, NOAA's weather forecast states that rain showers are likely. From Saturday night to Sunday there is a chance of showers forecast for Carter County. Winds on Thursday and Friday could range from 10-25 miles per hour.
  Howard Waldron, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Morristown said the impact will ultimately depend on what track the storm takes.
  "The latest forecast has the center of the storm stalling out over Southeast Tennessee, but as large as the storm is, Eastern Tennessee, Western North Carolina and some parts of Southwestern Virginia will all be under the rain bands," Waldron said, adding that he believed that the heavier rains would remain south of the Elizabethton area.
  Waldron said some areas in Tennessee may see some localized flooding or rivers and streams overflowing their banks. "It is significant enough to keep an eye on," he said.