Officials assessing Friday flood damage in Wise

Mike Still • Jul 1, 2019 at 6:00 PM

WISE — Town and Wise County officials are still assessing the damage from a Friday downpour that flooded downtown Wise.

Town Manager Beverly Owens on Monday said that, according to estimates from County Emergency Services Coordinator Jessica Swinney, Wise saw 4.5 inches of rain in just under an hour. Various social media video posts of the event showed water as deep as two feet along some parts of Main Street in the downtown area.

Flooding in the Railroad Avenue area near Main Street also cut in half a paved bus access ramp in front of L.F. Addington Middle School, Owens said.

The storm also caused flooding in the Yellow Creek section of the town near Addington Middle and Wise Primary schools, and in public and private land in front of the former J.J. Kelly High School on Birchfield Road, Owens said.

Wise County Schools Superintendent Greg Mullins said water also leaked through the Addington school roof, damaging a ceiling tile in a stairwell and soaking carpet in an office space.

“We’re lucky that there was no water in any of the educational areas of the school,” Mullins said.

While the ramp suffered from material washing out from under it, Mullins said the main bus bridge in from of the school is structurally sound.

Wise County Assistant Sheriff Grant Kilgore said the storm did not affect other parts of the county, and that Pound saw almost no rainfall at the time of the Wise storm.

While Norton saw heavy rainfall for about a half-hour starting at about 5 p.m., Police Chief James Lane said there were no reports of damage or heavy flooding in the city.

The force of the storm washed fist-sized rocks out of a drainage ditch along College Row SW and onto a sidewalk along Wise-Norton Road leading into the downtown Wise area. Owens said town crews spent much of Monday removing debris from streets, drain culverts and other places in town.

Sidewalk construction near the Main Street – Railroad Avenue intersection was not damaged by the storm, Owens said, although stockpiles of construction material were moved by the flooding.

After a conference call with state and county emergency officials Monday, Owens said affected property owners may have limited options to repair uninsured damages.

“FEMA has a program to assist property owners, but in order to submit an application there must be 25 properties affected in excess of 50 percent of their value,” Owens said.

Another state program for damage assistance requires that total losses must be more than $150,000 and be uninsured losses. Owens said that program only covers overtime and labor costs, and debris removal does not count for reimbursement. After eligible costs are set, the program will reimburse only 70 percent of the costs.

Applications for the state assistance plan have to be filed through the county emergency services coordinator, Owens said.

“If anyone feels they sustained 50 percent or more in uninsured losses, we’d like to hear from them,” Owens said.

Superintendent Mullins said damage at Addington is being assessed before a repair plan is put in place. He said repairs to the ramp, which crosses two four-foot drains, could include additional pipes to handle water flow from another event like the Friday flood.

Once planning is complete, Mullins said the repairs should take three to four weeks.