Parts of Tennessee hit with flash flooding, washing away home and derailing a train

By Kristin M. Hall, AP
Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tenn. rain washes away home, derails train

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Deluged Tennessee saw more rain early Thursday a day after flooding swept away a home, trapped drivers in their vehicles and derailed a train.

And forecasters were expecting more heavy showers to fall over the Southeast.

The downpours that began Wednesday hit some of the same parts of Middle Tennessee that were inundated with severe flooding in May, but forecasters don’t foresee it wreaking the same kind of havoc. Portions of Middle and East Tennessee as well as areas of southern Kentucky and western North Carolina and Virginia have been under flash flood warnings or watches.

A round of heavy rain set off fresh flash flooding just northeast of Nashville early Thursday.

National Weather Service forecaster John Cohen near Nashville said 4 to 6 inches of rain deluged an area along the Sumner County-Wilson County line, beginning around 10 p.m. Wednesday and lasting about five hours.

“Areas northeast (of Nashville) really got hit hard,” Cohen said.

“There were a few water rescues in the Mt. Juliet area and a number of roads were closed in Gallatin,” Cohen said.

The system had weakened considerably and moved eastward by sunrise.

Much of the damage in Tennessee on Wednesday was in Putnam County, where a home floated off its foundation and a train carrying sand derailed when the tracks were washed away. Roads were washed out and some minor bridges were affected, but no injuries or deaths were reported, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeremy Heidt said.

Officials were awaiting sunrise on Thursday to reassess the flooding.

“We’ll see what daylight brings, but hopefully we’ll be OK,” Heidt said early Thursday.

No fatalities or injuries had been reported to state officials, he said.

The National Weather Service declared a flash flood watch for all of eastern Tennessee for Friday, including the cities of Chattanooga, Knoxville and Johnson City.

Two to four inches of additional rain were possible from early morning until nearly noon.

In Macon County, Sheriff Mark Gammons said emergency officials evacuated about 50 nursing home residents on Wednesday from a facility near a rising creek as a precaution.

The remnants of Tropical Depression 5 were interacting with a weak front over the region, creating waves of moderate to heavy rainfall, but officials did not expect the kind of massive flooding that hit Nashville on May 1.

“It’s kind of similar, but moving through at a much quicker pace, which will keep the rainfall amounts well below what we saw in May,” said James LaRosa, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Nashville.

Heidt said some areas had received 3-7 inches Wednesday and could get several more inches of rain Thursday. He said the National Guard was on standby in case waters started to rise and rescues were needed.

The floods in May killed 22 people in Tennessee and caused over $2 billion in damage in Nashville alone. Record two-day rains swelled the Cumberland River.

Bob Sneed, water management section chief for the Nashville division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the agency is monitoring the situation, but so far the only problems are flash flooding along some streams.

Putnam County Sheriff David K. Andrews said a rescue team had to pull two women off the roof of their car after it was trapped in floodwaters northwest of Cookeville. Three people were rescued from a van that was washed off a county road by flood waters in Overton County, Mayor Kenneth Copeland said.

About 20 people had to be rescued from their homes due to rising flood waters, but all were doing fine and staying with relatives, Copeland said. The county has not had to open any shelters, he said.

“We’re thankful and real fortunate,” he said.

Associated Press writers Randall Dickerson, Rose French and Travis Loller in Nashville contributed to this report.

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