Scott County has certainly seen worse flooding. But it has been awhile.
That was the assessment of most local residents old enough to remember the noteworthy flooding events to impact the northern Cumberland Plateau region over the years, after a once-in-a-generation flooding event that ravaged the region for two days over the weekend.
By Monday, the flood waters had begun to recede, but recovery efforts were just beginning for work crews from both the Scott County Road Department and the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Both Oneida and Scott County schools were closed Monday, just one day ahead of end-of-course achievement testing, due to the flooding. The Huntsville campus of Roane State Community College also canceled classes on Monday. A number of secondary streets throughout the county remained closed for a second and third day. Even state highways were still impacted on Monday, as U.S. Hwy. 27 remained closed in Glenmary until early Monday morning and S.R. 456 remained closed in Paint Rock throughout the day as state crews worked to repair a slide that caused the east-bound lane to break off between Mine Rock Road and Annadell Road.
Elsewhere, residents who had been forced from their homes over the weekend were able to return by Monday, but a number of homeowners throughout the community were left to deal with flooded basements and other flood damages. At Buffalo Raceway east of Huntsville, early damage estimates ran into the tens of thousands of dollars after severe flooding. Facebook users shared video of the racetrack's concession stand being carried away by the flood waters. The owners of Trails End Campground, meanwhile, posted photos of significant flooding at their River Road facility near New River.
The culprit was up to 10 inches of rain that fell across the region on Saturday and Sunday, all of it on ground that was already saturated from heavy rains on Friday as the first in a series of disturbances created thunderstorms that left torrential rainfall in their wake.
Meteorologists said the alignment of the jet stream was responsible for funneling very moist air into the eastern U.S., with the first of two frontal boundaries setting off thunderstorms with heavy rainfall on Friday. A second frontal boundary resulted in significant rainfall on Saturday, and the impacts of flooding were already beginning to be felt.
On the upper reaches of New River, water was reported over the bridge at Winona by Saturday evening, and several roads were beginning to wash away. Concord Road, which connects West Robbins with U.S. Hwy. 27 just south of Robbins, was closed after a culvert washed away.
But the worst was yet to come as the rain ended and a double rainbow appeared over the eastern sky just as the sun was setting Saturday evening.
On Sunday morning, a slow-moving storm system moved through the region, prompting more heavy rains. Flood advisories that had been allowed to expire during the overnight hours were re-issued by the National Weather Service, and a flood warning was posted just after noon, as conditions deteriorated.
With most local rivers and streams out of their banks by midday Sunday, major flooding was reported at Paint Rock, Buffalo, Winona, and in other parts of Scott County. Road closings became numerous, and the Scott County Road Department — which had been responding to reports of roads rendered impassible by flood waters since the previous day — said that it had depleted its supply of barricades and advised motorists to use extreme caution on all backroads.
Near Robbins, U.S. Hwy. 27 was first reduced to one lane, then closed altogether, as the waters of Wolf Creek continued to rise and eventually covered the roadway. Near Paint Rock, S.R. 456 was closed after the pavement began to break near Annadell Road. The slide continued to worsen throughout the afternoon, completely taking out the east-bound lane of the roadway and threatening the west-bound lane.
The Scott County Rescue Squad was dispatched to assist residents in the Paint Rock community and other places where flood waters were encroaching upon homes. However, Scott County Emergency Management Agency director Wendy Walker said Monday that she was not aware of any mandatory evacuations that had taken place over the weekend.
In Low Gap, church-goers at the Baptist church left worship services Sunday morning to find flood waters rushing through the parking lot, surrounding their vehicles. Nearby, the roadway was eventually closed after washing out and threatening to collapse.
By Sunday evening, constant rains were giving way to showers, but flood waters continued to rise, prompting several churches to cancel evening services and resulting in school closures for both local school systems.
The Big South Fork River crested at nearly 30 feet during the overnight hours Sunday into Monday, some 25 feet higher than normal for this time of year. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the streamflow at Leatherwood Ford as being nearly 60,000 cubic feet per second — short of the all-time record since records-keeping began in 1983, which is nearly 70,000 cfs, but its highest point in more than a decade.
Sunny weather returned Monday, and dry conditions were expected Tuesday and Wednesday, though forecasters said rain — potentially heavy — would return today (Thursday).