HUNTSVILLE — The rains haven’t stopped, but the costs are rising, with the cost of road damages in Scott County hitting the half-million-dollar mark. 

Road Superintendent Kelvin King said Friday that his crews are working six days a week to keep roads passable and “get people in and out” from their homes. Road closures have been temporary, but in some cases the cures are also temporary — or the fixes are still awaited.

King said Saturday would mark the third consecutive weekend that his crews have worked, due to the repetitive rainfall. With several days still to go, this February is already the wettest on record in Scott County, and the winter season as a whole is also the wettest on record.

“We’re close to $500,000 in damage that we really need help with,” King said, referring to state aid funding. The cost includes materials and associated costs of repair, along with overtime being accrued by Road Department employees.

There is a major slide on Norma that awaits repair, resulting in the closure of one lane there, and also slides on Brimstone. Other problem areas that have required the Road Department’s attention include Shay Road, Smokey Creek Road, Wolf Creek Road, Camp Road, Upper Jellico Creek, Lower Jellico Creek, Gum Fork, Byrd Hollow, Low Gap and Buffalo.

In some cases, King said, the fixes have been temporary as his department awaits a shipment of materials. The Road Department’s standard approach for the past 10 years has been to replace culverts that need repair with larger pipes to avoid future problems.

“We’re still having trouble in different places because we’re waiting on those bigger pipes to come along,” King said. “We’re fixing them temporarily until the next rain comes along and washes us out again.” 

Clay Boyatt Road was closed between Big Ridge Road and Atomic Lane on Saturday, February 23, 2019, after a sinkhole opened up | Ben Garrett/IH

In some cases, the Road Department has to prioritize based on its materials on hand. An example is Atomic Lane, where a culvert needs to be replaced. However, a pipe that was tagged for that road wound up being needed on Pleasant Grove Road, which has more traffic.

Meanwhile, the problem in the Atomic Lane area was exacerbated Saturday morning when a sinkhole opened on Clay Boyatt Road — one of two roads linking Big Ridge Road to Atomic Road, which itself ultimately intersects with Big Ridge Road. Clay Boyatt Road was closed due to the sinkhole.

Not all of the problems are drainage problems, however. Slides are becoming a bigger issue as the ground remains saturated.

“You could stand on Norma Road at the slide and see water coming out of the side of the mountain, a stream of water coming out of the slide 15 or 20 feet down,” King said. “That caused the slide.”

King said the hope is that Tennessee Governor Bill Lee will declare a disaster so that the road department can complete the hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs and prevent those funds from being taken from his operational budget — money that is targeted for spring paving projects. That seems likely; the threshold for a disaster declaration is $9 million in damages in a specific region or across the entire state. King said he had turned in between $500,000 and $600,000 in damage assessments.