Thursday, May 5, 2011
Flash floods sweep county
By SUE WATSON
By all accounts Marshall County got off light in last week’s round of storms with the bulk of the problem being flooded creeks and roads.
Meanwhile, tornadoes cut swaths across five southern states – killing more than 300 people.
Harbingers of the storm arrived Monday, April 25, in Marshall County with heavy rains overnight dumping two to three inches that began swelling creeks. The real hurt came Wednesday, after rain rolled in Tuesday night, April 26, around 8 in Holly Springs. Power was knocked out in a large area of the city as the storm arrived. Areas from Chulahoma Avenue and Craft on both sides of the street were blacked out to almost the Highway 4 West interchange south of town.
Waves of storms passed through sporadically during the night, causing problems with flooding in the early morning hours Wednesday, according to sheriff Kenny Dickerson and deputies.
Roads were flooding in the low places and bridges or culverts were washing out. Marshall County schools dismissed students around noon Wednesday and Marshall Academy at 12:30 p.m., while city schools were open a full day.
Meanwhile, trouble was developing around the county. Deputies rescued about 14 people from flooded homes throughout the day, with heavy flooding in the Cedar Oaks Circle, Durham Road and Oakwood Drive areas near Barton.
“We responded to flooding situations beginning in the early hours Wednesday, pulling people out of houses because of extremely high water coming up so quickly and getting in their houses,” said Maj. Kelly McMillen. “People were caught off guard.”
Dickerson said they also retrieved some dogs, parakeets and goats.
A search team had worked all day looking for a man known to have been traveling to work on South Slayden Road, but did not arrive. Volunteers with the Mt. Pleasant/Slayden Fire Department and rescue workers with the Holly Springs Fire Department spent the day in search along Duck Pond Road and Slayden Road for the missing man. Just as the sheriff was about to call for an aerial search to go along with the ground search, the vehicle was found in a creek west of South Slayden Road where a culvert and the road washed out, Dickerson said.
The 1993 Lincoln town car, driven by the flood victim, was found about 200 yards from the road – in the creek after the water receded. The victim, Artwell Craft, 66, from the Kimbrough Chapel Road area, was found near the bank of the creek about 500 yards from the road and downstream from the Lincoln about 300 yards, he said.
Officers determined Craft was en route to work and normally would travel Duck Pond Road. But with the road flooded, they believe he turned around and took an alternate route, heading south on South Slayden Road where he could have run off into the creek around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. Wednesday.
Craft’s family called and reported him missing after he failed to report to work at HT&T Transportation.
“They knew it was not his routine to not show up to work,” Dickerson said.
The road had washed completely out. The Lincoln hit the creek wall and was carried on downstream in the rushing flood waters. The impact caused the airbag to deploy, the sheriff said.
Craft’s body was found by deputy Justin Gray and firefighters around 3:30 p.m. in water four to five feet deep.
The washout on South Slayden Road had been the site of an accident earlier in the day, near daylight, when a vehicle carrying about seven people flipped after breaking heavily to avoid going into the washout. Several passengers were injured and transported to the hospital for treatment, Dickerson said. Also, early in the day a deputy had driven the front end of his vehicle off into the washout and a tow truck was required to remove it from the fracture.
District 2 supervisor Eddie Dixon said he had ridden South Slayden Road somewhere between 2 to 2:30 a.m. Wednesday and the road was not washed out at the culvert and he noted no problems. He said just in such a short time the situation had changed.
McMillen said low visibility could have contributed to the accidents at South Slayden Road.
Other roads had major washouts, according the county road manager Larry Hall. Two dead-end roads were opened so people could get out. A pipe was reset on Valley View Road in the Byhalia area. A temporary bridge was put in place on Jamison Road near Chulahoma. One person was injured at the Jamison Road site, he said.
“The pipes had completely washed out and went down the creek,” Hall said. “We will have to come back and redo both.”
Other areas where roads were covered or partly covered with water or had washouts, besides South Slayden Road, were French Road near Byhalia, Beale Road near Warsaw, Johnny Walker Road near the Bethlehem community, Mill Pond Road near Early Grove and North Red Banks Road, Hall said.
Close to six inches of rain had been reported by Memphis, Tenn., media to have fallen overnight and into the morning, Hall said.
“We are finding more stuff like we do during large rain events in the daytime,” he said. “There was lots of timber over the roads and tree damage beginning Monday night and during the first surge Tuesday night.”
All in all, the road and drainage pipe damage could come to the same amount as was seen the first weekend in May 2010, Hall said, when eight big drainage pipes washed out. He expects a declaration from the board of supervisors this week that will pave the way to apply for mitigation of damages from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Hall told supervisors Monday that he estimates $300,000 in damages to roads and bridges, a figure likely to go higher.
Hall said the death of Artwell Craft is the first weather- and road-related death he is aware of on a county road since he came on the job 20 years ago.
As crews were winding down Wednesday afternoon, real hurt and damaging winds swept through other parts of Central Mississippi and into Alabama where whole communities were wiped out and all power was lost. Recovery efforts were underway to help Alabama neighbors collect what is left of their homes and communities as well as those living in Smithville in Monroe County.
Several large old trees were lost in the City of Holly Springs, according to Larry Miller, superintendent of buildings and grounds. One fell on East Van Dorn near Chesterman Street, a second in the Salem Avenue area, and a large cedar split and fell in Hill Crest Cemetery near the Coxe family monuments. A large pecan tree also fell on the Hill Crest grounds, he said.
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