Across Scott County, flood waters began to recede Thursday afternoon, leaving gutted roads, soaked basements and compromised roofs in their wake.
And, surprisingly, the one overriding theme associated with the February 5-6 flooding event: it’s Scott County’s biggest in recent history.
At Leatherwood Ford along S.R. 297 west of Oneida, several old-timers stood gazing at the rising waters of the Big South Fork River Thursday morning, struggling to remember exactly how long it had been since the river had been that far out of banks. One said it had never gotten that high. Another said, simply, it’s been a while.
One thing was clear: not as far back as U.S. Geological Survey data is publicly archived had the river been that high. That’s only back to 1989, a period of 31 years, but it was still apparent that Thursday’s flood was one for the books.
The BSF River crested at Leatherwood at 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon, reaching a height of 39.44 ft. — just a little more than half a foot from the maximum that can be measured by the USGS’s gauges there.
The river is normally at about 8 ft. in early February.
That equates to a stream flow of 73,800 cubic feet per second (cfs), which beat the old record — since 1989 — of 65,900. That record was set on September 17, 2004, after 4.91 inches of rainfall were recorded in Oneida in a 24-hour period.
While the river had crested at 1 p.m., there was the potential for it to raise higher. New River, which is the BSF’s primary tributary, was still rising early Thursday afternoon. It was at 31.63 ft. at 1:30 p.m., and rising at a rate of about six inches every half-hour. The norm at the U.S. Hwy. 27 bridge for early February is about 5 ft.
That depth equates to a stream flow of 46,100 at New River — which also beat out the post-1989 record, which was 42,800 cfs on September 17, 2004.
At Burnt Mill Bridge near Robbins, the Clear Fork River was visibly dropping by early afternoon, after cresting at 18.51 ft. at 11 a.m. Thursday morning. The norm there is about 3 ft. The stream flow was 34,000 cfs at its peak.
Unofficially, 6.0 inches of rain fell in Oneida from Wednesday into Thursday. The heaviest rains arrived after the sun set Wednesday evening. By late evening, the Scott County Sheriff’s Office was advising motorists to stay off roadways unless they absolutely had to be out and about. Shortly thereafter, both the Scott County School System and the Oneida Special School District announced a two-hour delay for Thursday’s classes as a precautionary measure.
Both school systems would go on to cancel classes on Thursday, and schools were to have remained closed on Friday — perhaps partly because illness which prompted the dismissal of classes to end last week and start this week is still prevalent, but also because rain-damaged roadways were still a concern.
Thursday’s sporting events were all canceled. Scott High’s basketball game at Austin-East in Knoxville was postponed with a makeup date undetermined by Thursday afternoon. The middle school state sectional semifinals in Harriman, where Oneida’s boys and Huntsville’s girls were slated to play Thursday evening, were postponed until Saturday.
By the break of dawn on Thursday, as rain continued to fall, dozens of roadways were impassible across the region, including some state roads. U.S. Hwy. 27 was closed at the usual trouble spot along Black Wolf Creek near Glenmary; southbound motorists were greeted by orange barrels denoting the closed roadway when they reached the intersection with S.R. 52 at Elgin. West of Oneida, one lane of S.R. 297 was closed due to a mudslide.
There were other slides, as well — including one at Norma and one at Tunnel Hill east of Oneida.
At Winona, the New River bridge became completely submerged by mid-morning on Thursday.
The damages continued to mount as New River climbed further out of its banks. In some cases, vehicles were flooded. In other cases, the flood waters lapped at the foundations of houses. At Brimstone Recreation’s event grounds, volunteers were on scene in an attempt to secure structures that were at risk of being washed away. Further south, along Brimstone Road, one resident reported that the out-of-banks Brimstone Creek had a current strong enough to carry away round bales of hay from flooded pastureland.
No injuries were reported.
The National Weather Service had warned of the possibility of flooding well in advance. Initially, a flash flood watch was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The start time of the watch was later bumped up to 3 p.m. Flood warnings were issued by late Wednesday evening and continued through much of the day on Thursday.