The Heat Is Online

Worst Flooding in 30 Years Costs Chattanooga $17 million

Flooding Forces Thousands from Homes
, May. 08, 2003

As many as 1,600 people, including residents of a suburban retirement center, were forced from their homes by Chattanooga's worst flood in nearly 30 years, officials said Thursday.

No serious injuries were reported, and the rivers and tributaries swollen by more than a foot of rain that dropped on parts of Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia since Sunday were beginning to recede Thursday.

Damage to about 480 buildings could total $17 million in Chattanooga, the Tennessee Valley Authority estimated.

TVA spokeswoman Michelle Chang said the Tennessee River was expected to drop below its flood stage by Sunday.

National Weather Service hydrologist Brian Boyd said the deluge that soaked East Tennessee was expected to give way to scattered thunderstorms on Friday and Saturday. But there was no end in sight for that pattern, he said.

Hamilton County Emergency Services Director Don Allen said flooding forced up to 600 residents in the city from their homes. No evacuations had been reported since late Thursday morning and most people didn't need to take refuge in emergency shelters, he said.

"Ninety-five percent of the people go to a friend's or relative's house," Allen said.

In East Ridge, a south Chattanooga suburb of about 21,000 residents, about 30 people were rescued by boat and at least 1,000 were displaced by flood waters from Chickamauga Creek, a Tennessee River tributary, police communications supervisor Sunday Moore said.

Water surrounded Alina Morehouse's one-story East Ridge house on Thursday. Her family awoke to find water covering the home's tile floor. It began to recede by noon, she said.

"The tile floor is buckled up. The water has receded. We've got about four feet of water in our yard," Morehouse said.

Morehouse said she has flood insurance, as required for her neighborhood.

Hamilton County Emergency Services spokeswoman Amy Maxwell said at least 32 people forced from their homes by the rising Chickamauga Creek went to a temporary shelter set up at a high school by the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

About 18 residents of the East Ridge Retirement Center were taken to the shelter and others were picked up Wednesday by relatives or friends before rain-swollen creeks and rivers in East Tennessee started receding.

The Tennessee River reached 36 feet at Chattanooga's Walnut Street Bridge late Wednesday, about six feet above flood stage. That compared with a flood crest of 34.8 feet in May 1984 and 36.9 feet in March 1973.

TVA spokesman Gil Francis said the level receded to about five feet above flood stage Thursday and was expected to drop another two feet by late Friday.

"It is on the way down," he said.

Francis said water levels would drop slowly because TVA, which controls water levels on the Tennessee River system, overfilled reservoirs north of Knoxville to control the flow at Chattanooga.

He said navigation on the river would not resume "until sometime next week."

Boyd said some residents around Lake Guntersville in North Alabama were concerned about the rising water. He commended TVA's management of the flood waters.

"It is a trapeze act," he said.

Morehouse said the flooding was mostly an inconvenience -- especially to her pets. A neighbor in a canoe picked up her two dogs and took them down the street to dry spot.

"They have to go on dry land," she said.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.