Much of Rives under water

Much of Rives under water

Posted: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 9:05 pm

Much of Rives under water | Obion County flooding

Jackie Bizwell, Phyllis Powell and former mayor Billy Long.

By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Floodwaters in Rives haven’t yet reached the levels of the February 1997 floods, but the situation there was severe enough that Mayor Stan Powell considered shutting down the town’s water and sewer system Tuesday afternoon. The water and sewer systems were not shut down, but Rives’ residents were encouraged to evacuate to escape the rising waters.
The voluntary evacuation order for Rives comes on the heels of similar orders for residents in the areas of Samburg and Obion.
The city park in Rives was inundated with floodwaters Tuesday afternoon and a large section of the main street through Rives — Cross Street — was submerged Tuesday.
Emergency workers set up barricades to stop all but essential traffic into Rives Tuesday and local officials continue to monitor the water levels there and in other locations across the county and the region.
Those emergency services workers responding to this week’s flooding have been able to do little but watch the floodwaters rise and try to block traffic to flooded areas of the county.
Flooding continues to be a major problem for residents in the Fulton County, Ky., area and in neighboring Lake County.
Many evacuees from across the area are apparently staying with family and friends. A designated emergency shelter at Second Baptist Church in Union City has had one family from Fulton County, Ky., staying there.
A church spokesman told The Messenger today the family was being moved into a Sunday school room this morning and workers were going to break down and take out the 138 cots set up at the church.
Initially, arrangements were made for the emergency shelter to handle more than 100 evacuees, but that number was well off the mark with only one family taking advantage of the church’s facilities.
Plans are in place to set up a mobile emergency communications center from Dyer County at Hornbeak City Hall to handle emergency communications for Lake County, according to Hornbeak Fire Chief Bob Reavis, who is also a member of the Local Emergency Planning Committee. He told The Messenger today he has been actively involved in working on flood-related problems and has been coordinating flood relief efforts for Lake and Obion counties.
In Kenton, the school there has been closed and city officials were keeping an eye on the rising water levels east of town, in the area where East Church Street turns into state Highway 89. That area appeared to be one giant lake late Tuesday afternoon as floodwaters ran swiftly under the Highway 89 bridge. Kenton Councilman Tim Johns told The Messenger Tuesday evening he believes the floodwaters are beginning to recede.
Between Union City and Kenton, the Obion River at the Gooch Wildlife Management Area was swollen to the bottom side of the bridge across the river. The river’s current moved swiftly under the bridge and the water was a murky brown with scattered debris being carried downstream.
In other flood-related developments, State Rep. Bill Sanderson and state Sen. Roy Herron joined Gov. Bill Haslam for a helicopter tour of flood ravaged West Tennessee Tuesday afternoon.
Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire traveled to the Dyersburg airport Tuesday afternoon to meet with the governor to discuss local flooding concerns.
McGuire told The Messenger the governor “was very receptive” to the needs of the region in light of recent flooding.
He said county officials and Emergency Management Agency directors from across the region attended Tuesday afternoon’s meeting with Gov. Haslam and other state officials.
“I was very pleased with the state and what they’re offering us,” McGuire said today.
Even though Obion County is not included in a request to President Obama to authorize emergency funding of $10 million to help with flood evacuation preparedness in West Tennessee, McGuire said he was informed that if the federal funding is approved, “We’re going to get added” to the list of impacted counties.
“The vastness of the flooding and the water on both sides of the river is just a little hard to believe until you get up there,” Haslam said. “As far as you can see, you see muddy water going everywhere.”
Haslam on Tuesday asked President Obama to authorize emergency funding of $10 million to help the state and local jurisdictions with flood evacuation preparedness in West Tennessee, according to the Associated Press. The governor said the state is evaluating its response, including whether or how to use the National Guard. He said no decisions have been made on more evacuations.
This week’s rains and flooding continue to cause problems for customers with the Gibson Electric Membership Corporation.
“In the interest of safety, Gibson EMC is asking members who must evacuate their homes and businesses to call their local Gibson EMC customer service center or Gibson EMC’s outage hotline at 1-800-977-4076,” a GEMC spokesman said. “Gibson EMC will send personnel to temporarily disconnect your electric service.”
Another precautionary reminder has been issued by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, which is reminding motorists of its slogan — “Turn Around Don’t Drown®”
According to the National Weather Service, more deaths are caused annually by flooding than any other severe weather-related hazard. The NWS reported there were 22 flood casualties in Tennessee in 2010, and of those 22 deaths, eight were by vehicle.
“Motorists must be smart and take extra precautions when driving in wet, rainy and flooding than any other severe weather-related hazard,” THP Col. Tracy Trott said. “Drivers should adjust their speed accordingly and avoid driving through flooded areas by any means necessary.”
In Tennessee, it is against the law to drive around a barricade or flood warning sign.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by e-mail at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 5.4.11

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