Note: This story was last updated at 8 p.m.
Roads flooded and trees fell—sometimes on homes, power lines, and roads—as rain continued to fall in East Tennessee on Sunday. One driver was reported to have escaped from her car in floodwaters on Airport Road near Oliver Springs on Saturday afternoon, but the black Nissan Altima remained partially submerged in the water on Sunday.
There appeared to have been at least 10 reports of fallen trees in Oak Ridge during the severe thunderstorms that started Saturday afternoon and continued with rain showers on Sunday. Most of those trees were reported to have fallen on homes, power lines, across roadways, or on personal property such as an automobile. There were five reports of fallen trees between about 3 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, including a tree that fell across both lanes of Melton Lake Drive near Calhoun’s restaurant, causing a temporary closure of that two-lane road.
There were more reports of trees that had fallen but not damaged anything.
Large trees are falling due to excess rain, the City of Oak Ridge said Sunday. Electric crews have been out all night, and backup is on the way, the city said, but it may be tomorrow (Monday, April 24) before all power is back.
At various times on Sunday, there were reports of flooding or flood watches across Oak Ridge, including on Vermont Avenue, near Heritage Center (the former K-25 site), on California Avenue, and at Jefferson Avenue and North Jefferson Circle.
There were also reports of trees down and road closures in Clinton. Briceville Highway was reported to be closed in Briceveille due to sinking pavement on Sunday afternoon. Earlier Sunday, State Route 71 in Anderson County was closed for several hours at Norris Dam State Park because trees were blocking the road, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Some school districts have announced they will be closed Monday. Roane County Schools said it will be closed due to “concerning road conditions throughout the county.” Anderson County Schools said it will be closed because of dangerous conditions with flooded roads and trees being down.
The National Weather Service in Morristown said a record for daily rainfall was set at Knoxville Mcghee Tyson Airport on Sunday. The NWS said 1.89 inches had fallen as of 5 p.m. Sunday, breaking the old record of 1.63 inches in 1977.
“Use caution if you must be out traveling,” the National Weather Service said. “If you see a flooded road, turn around, don’t drown.”
As the rain started Saturday, Clinton Highway (SR 9/US 25W) was briefly closed at the Anderson-Knox county line because of trees and power lines across the roadway, TDOT said.
Windrock Road in Oliver Springs was closed for about four hours on Saturday, Oliver Springs Police Chief Kenneth Morgan said. Campers and ATV riders—they were presumably at Windrock Park north of Oliver Springs for the Spring Jamboree—couldn’t get out because Hoskins Gap Road was flooded, and a fallen tree or trees on Lookout Avenue took out four utility poles.
Windrock Road did re-open Saturday night after the water receded, and it was open mid-Sunday afternoon. But by then, water was again starting to cover much of the road as a steady rain continued to fall.
Morgan was answering the phone at the Oliver Springs Police Department on Sunday afternoon. The phone rang continuously. It hadn’t stopped all night, Morgan said.
“Everybody’s worn out right now,” Morgan said.
About every street in town had had some flooding. Midway Drive and Airport Road were both closed due to flooding. So was the Darwin “T.C.” Davis Sports Complex behind Oliver Springs High School. It’s used by high school, middle school, and little league teams.
“We’ve got a lot of water—water everywhere,” Morgan said. “Our drain system isn’t built to handle this much water. This is the most we’ve had in a while.”
It’s not clear that stormwater systems in other cities were designed to handle such heavy rains either. In Oak Ridge on Saturday, there were reports of water coming up through stormwater drains, and Oak Ridge Today observed water apparently bubbling up from a submerged stormwater manhole cover on Royce Circle.
Oak Ridge Fire Department Chief Darryl Kerley said it was the worst flooding he has seen.
In Oliver Springs, Morgan said a tree that fell on Oak Circle had taken down some power lines. He was receiving regular reports of water rising between Oliver Springs and Harriman. A tree that fell on a house on Ridgeview Drive had pulled some electrical wires out of a meter box, starting a small fire, although there were no injuries, Morgan said.
The police chief said the power that went out due to the damaged utility poles on Lookout Avenue on Saturday night was restored by about 8 a.m. Sunday. The power supplies part of Oliver Springs and to homes and businesses out toward Coalfield, Morgan said. The Clinton Utilities Board was out all night working in the rain to restore power, he said.
Airport Road is one road in Anderson County that regularly floods and can be covered by a significant amount of deep, fast-moving water and closed during heavy rains. Irwin Mill Road northeast of Clinton is another.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See our coverage of the storms on Saturday here.
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