On the heels of a week filled with extremes, including extensive flooding across Lincoln County, the National Weather Service out of Huntsville issued two new flood watches on Sunday, warning residents here of the likelihood of more widespread flooding this week.
Considering already saturated soils from last week’s heavy rainfall, the threat is very real, they say. Consequently, local authorities are reminding motorists that moving barricades or traveling around barriers is a violation of state law and that violators in both the city and the county will be cited.
In individual statements issued late Monday, the Lincoln County Emergency Management Agency, Lincoln County Sheriff's Department and Fayetteville Police Department joined together in saying that over the next 48 hours, they are preparing for the potential of flooding.
In the county's case, deputies will be checking flood-prone areas, and should they become flooded, the Lincoln County Highway Department, as well as TDOT, will be placing barricades to close the roads.
"Moving barricades or traveling around barriers is a violation of TCA 39-17-108," stated Sheriff Murray Blackwelder. "Violators will be ticketed.
"The Sheriff's Department would urge residents to stay away from flood-prone areas and not attempt to travel through flood waters," he added. "Ignoring barricades not only puts your life in danger but the lives of first responders."
In the city, officials noted that the most common flood areas are Norris Street, Adams Street, Old Mulberry Avenue, Lincoln Avenue, and Main Avenue -- these are same locations identified during last week's flood. Should flooding again occur this week, the Fayetteville Street Department and TDOT will begin closing these streets.
"These barricades will be monitored by the Fayetteville Police Department," said Commander Coby Templeton. "Moving barricades or traveling around barriers is a Class A misdemeanor. Officers will issue citations for any violations."
To maintain public safety, the Fayetteville Recreation Department has closed the city parks until further notice," Templeton said. "Anyone found beyond the barriers will also be charged. Watercraft, to include boats and kayaks, are forbidden in closed parks. Submerged obstacles and debris make it unsafe for boating."
After a heavy rain began on Wednesday last week, the Elk River rose to 24.21 feet Thursday – flood stage occurs at 17.5 feet. Even as waters receded to below flood stage Saturday, Tims Ford began spilling in anticipation of rainfall this week. According to the Tennessee Valley Authority’s predictions, those releases are likely to be substantially reduced early this week as they continue to monitor levels on the Elk.
“We have reduced flow from Tims Ford so the river flows and elevation in Fayetteville will be very dependent upon how much rainfall they actually get,” said James Everett, senior manager of the TVA River Forecast Center, on Monday morning.
“For Fayetteville,” he said, referring to the forecast for the week, “we’re showing the potential of a rise of about four to five feet, and that would put it lower than it was last week.”
In at least four instances last week, motorists were swept into floodwaters here in rural Lincoln County. In two of those cases, two people had to be rescued from their vehicles, while in the others, two more people managed to escape their partially submerged vehicles.
Some of those cases occurred prior to barriers being positioned in the roadways, said officials. However, there were also reports of barriers being driven around as well as removed. In the wake of that, law enforcement issued a statement, saying they would issue citations to anyone driving through a barrier and anyone tampering with them. Tennessee Code Annotated 39-1708 prohibits anyone from tampering with barriers and other signage and traveling on closed roadways.
Early Thursday morning three Sheriff’s Department deputies and EMA responded to a call for a water rescue on Brown Teal Road near Howell. Deputy Jeremy Tanner was first on the scene, where a white Ford Escape had been swept into the water near a creek. Deputies Mark Gay and Tony Metcalf waded into the cold water to rescue the woman. Steve Parks, deputy director of the EMA, was also on the scene.
Billy Miles, EMA assistant volunteer director, described a scene on Mason Road, near Mason Spur Road, early Wednesday afternoon where a middle aged man was rescued from his truck in swift water. The Toyota Tacoma he had been driving was washed off the road, and most of the truck, except the cab, was submerged in the water. Flintville and Vanntown Fire/Rescue units, along with Parks and Miles, were on the scene. No injuries were reported.
Earlier on Wednesday afternoon, units responded to Corders Crossroads where an individual driving a white Cadillac had been washed off the road, down an incline, through a barbed-wire fence and into a pasture. Before EMA and Fire/Rescue units arrived, the driver had already managed to open a window and climb onto the top of the vehicle.
According to another report, a truck was swept into deep water on Old Molino Road late Wednesday, but the driver was able to exit it to safety.
Altogether, the Lincoln County EMA and volunteers with Lincoln County Fire/Rescue units responded to 22 calls between Wednesday and Friday, said Parks.