With Florence approaching Hawkins EMA asks residents to 'be prepared'

Jeff Bobo • Sep 14, 2018 at 12:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The latest forecasts indicate that Northeast Tennessee will receive rain and wind from Hurricane Florence between Saturday night and Tuesday, which Hawkins County EMA Director Gary Murrell said should give residents plenty of time to prepare.

Murrell told the Times News Thursday that although local rain predictions keep changing, there’s little doubt that there will be flooding in some areas.

“We were predicted in the 3-inch range, and maybe it’s a little less now, but we expect some problems in our most flood-prone areas,” Murrell said. “We have the advantage of knowing in advance that it’s coming and being prepared. We’re just asking residents to do what you can to be prepared and stay safe, and don’t create emergency response situations that are avoidable.”

He added, “We could have rain and flooding for two or three days, and there’s a possibility we’re going to lose power in some areas. Have a flashlight and be ready to move. If your home starts flooding, don’t wait until you’re stranded before you decide to move.”

Turn around, don’t drown

The other big piece of advice for this weekend is don’t attempt to drive through flooded roadways.

The catchphrase Murrell wants everyone to remember is “Turn around, don’t drown.”

“That’s going to be a big issue, and we went through several rescues last year up on Big Elm Road,” Murrell noted. “We don’t want that again.”

Mount Carmel Police Chief Grady White is asking residents to be aware that roads which don’t ordinarily flood might be a problem this weekend.

“Do not drive through any water on roadways,” White said. “Make sure you have enough supplies — batteries, food and water — in case floodwater takes more time than normal to recede. Always remember storms fueled by hurricanes usually come with strong winds that can damage power lines and equipment that could take several days to repair. Keep your cellphones fully charged in case the power does go off, so you can still make calls in case of emergency.”

Hawkins County’s most flood-prone areas

Obviously Big Elm Road, which runs along the bank of the North Fork of the Holston River, floods anytime there’s significant rain.

Murrell said local residents know to be prepared for that, and the rescue situations generally result from non-residents who try to drive through the flooded road.

Some of the other locations Murrell identified as prone to flooding include the Fishers Creek area, the area south of St. Clair, the Ebbing and Flowing Springs area near Rogersville, Pressmen’s Home and Poor Valley.

Hawkins County’s most recent floodwater rescue occurred in Poor Valley last year. A house was completely surrounded by water, and the Hawkins County Rescue Squad had to take boats to rescue a mother and her children.

“Our biggest problem is people not paying attention to what’s going on,” Murrell said. “Our responders are geared up and ready to go for anything. They do a good job. But we respond to a lot of calls that could have been avoided if the people had been prepared. We’re just asking the public to take all necessary precautions.”

Take care of your pets

Murrell noted that Hawkins County Central Dispatch always receives calls during heavy rain and flooding about pets that are left tied outside in floodwater and can’t escape.

“People need to remember to take care of them too,” Murell noted.