Flood waters destroy homes, roads, lives

By Becky Jane Newbold,

Associate Editor

One year to the day, Koria Johns surveyed the aftermath of floodwaters which destroyed her family’s business.

And this time they may not be able to pick up the pieces again, she said, without some kind of help.


Just last week, she said in an interview Monday, was she able to finally print checks using the new computer system installed at the Slippery Creek Saw Mill.  Then, on May 2, 2010, she, her husband Kenny and his brother, Donnie, owners of the operation, watched waters rise within six inches of covering the windshield of the logging trucks.

And the scale house floated around the property just as it had on May 2, 2009 when Cane Creek overfilled its banks and flooded the mill.

Equipment used in the business was destroyed and buildings heavily damaged.  A fire Wednesday morning added further damage, ending hopes of a quick return to production.

Approximately 30 families depended on the mill for their livelihood, she said.


Yet, her trouble did not hinder her generosity.  When neighbor Ezra King stopped after having been rescued just one day prior when creek waters nearly destroyed his home, she offered him and his family a place to stay, rent free.


“We have the house for sale,” she said.  “But you guys can stay there, its no problem.”

Ezra King and his wife, Pat, were like others across Lewis County who were rescued Sunday when trains of storms made their way across the state of Tennessee, dumping at least 13.5 inches of rainfall in Lewis County alone.  More than 65 homes sustained major damage, Emergency Management Director Daniel Atkinson reported.

Neighboring Hickman County was reported to have 16 inches and portions remained underwater with the Duck River not expected to recede to flood stage until yesterday.

Lewis County Mayor Jonah Keltner urged homeowners and property owners who have not been contacted by a local official to report damage.  Take pictures of the damage before clean up begins, make a list of all belongings damaged or destroyed and send a letter to the county mayor,” Atkinson added.

Federal base line levels will determine the amount of assistance Lewis County receives, Mayor Keltner said.  It is vitally important that all damage be included in reports to help with Lewis County’s inclusion in the federal assistance program.


Four counties in Tennessee were named as eligible to receive assistance Tuesday:  Cheatham, Davidson, Hickman and Williamson.

Representative Lincoln Davis’s office was expected to have a conference call Wednesday just after press time with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) officials to better determine the need for this area.

FEMA officials will visit Lewis County to assess the damages before the community will be eligible for assistance, Mayor Keltner explained.

More than 50 bridges and 32 roads in Lewis County were destroyed and/or damaged during the storm, Highway Commissioner Ronnie Darnell told the mayor.  A State of Tennessee Highway Department official was expected to be in Lewis County Thursday to assess damage.

Lewis County Schools remained closed Wednesday, for the third day in a row, due to road closures.  Commissioner Darnell reported local contractors and his department expected to have 30 of the 32 road re-opened by Wednesday afternoon.

McCord Hollow Road and Dial Hollow Road would not be open until further repairs could be made.

Nine were rescued from Hidden Valley Road when the Buffalo River spilled over its banks, Lt. Tommy Fransen of the Lewis County Sheriff’s Department reported Monday.



Lewis County Sheriff Dwayne Kilpatrick, assisted by his deputies, emergency personnel from Lawrence County and members of the Lewis County emergency crews, made the rescues, which included family pets.

Volunteer Butch Lawson provided a boat and helped with rescues during the massive rainfall Sunday afternoon to bring the people who were stranded in cabins on stilts to safety.

Two drowned in Perry County when Brush Creek flooded a double wide mobile home, washing a teenage girl down stream.  Her father also drowned in an attempt to rescue her. (See related story).

No deaths were reported in Lewis County.

Lewis County TDOT official Jason Haygood reported two massive mud slides along Highway 48 in Lewis County, both occurring on Sunday.  On Highway 48 South, sawdust and debris from a sawmill formerly operated on South Ridge Road, began sliding down the hill bringing trees, mud and sawdust to a crashing halt in the middle of the highway.

Traffic was stopped from about 2 p.m. until midnight Sunday when the road was cleared enough for both lanes to be re-opened.  Crews remained on the scene overnight to monitor the situation but no further damage was reported.


A mudslide on Highway 48 North also closed that portion of the roadway for several hours on Sunday morning.


Culverts beneath State Route 99/Highway 412 East could not handle the amount of water near the Lewis/Maury County line washing out the west bound lane.  TDOT crews worked to replace six feet of displaced earth beneath the lane.  The incident occurred at the 28.9 mile marker.

Later Sunday, crews were called back to the scene when both lanes were damaged, causing a need for traffic to be detoured.

Road damage was still being assessed at press time.

City of Hohenwald First Responders Steve Vineyard and Randy Hinson assisted with water rescues in Hickman County on Saturday on Highway 48 before being called back home to help locally.

They were called to the home of Ezra King on Slippery Road where water rose quickly trapping Mr. King, his wife, Pat and their granddaughter, Jada.  The rescue lasted about three hours, neighbors reported and required the help of a Swift Water Rescue team from Lawrence County.


Others along Slippery Road suffered damage to their homes including Ronnie and Bertha James, Mike and Nicky James and, on Cane Creek Road, Ralph and Edna Skelton.

At least one home, owned by John and Christine Reynolds, was damaged on Trace Creek Road when eight inches of water continually rose and fell during the day Sunday.  The original part of the structure, built in 1865, was not damaged, Mrs. Reynolds reported.

Among homes damaged in the Buffalo Road area was one owned by Pam Talley whose daughter reported more than 12 inches of water in the home.

Northern District Ranger Daniel Kimes of the Natchez Trace Parkway reported water was across the Parkway in several places, but said no serious damage was sustained in Lewis County.  Garrison Creek flooded, he said, completely flooding the Franklin office.  Total rainfall recorded at Meriwether Lewis Park was 10.16 inches.

Traffic increased on the Trace, he added, due to the closures of several highways in the area.

Downtown traffic in Hohenwald Monday was uncharacteristically jammed with trucks as Interstate 40, Highway 100 and Highway 70 were closed due to flooding in the Nashville area.  Highway 412 was used as an alternate route and at several times during the day, eighteen wheel truck traffic was lined along Main Street from Maple Street west to the Tennessee Technology Center, 1.3 miles.

Gas and water lines within the City limits of Hohenwald and into the county were damaged causing loss of service over the weekend and Monday, Mayor Don Jones reported.  Zimmermann Street at Piney Creek Road was completely washed out destroying water and gas lines in that area.  Also damaged was Poplar Street, the mayor reported.

“We expect huge damages to our infrastructure,” Mayor Jones continued, saying crews were still assessing damage.  Absolutely no safety issues with the water supply were reported, the mayor continued, as the water treatment facility suffered no flooding.

Mayor Jones, Mayor Keltner and Lt. Fransen echoed each other in praise for volunteers and members of the community.

“The community came out like they always do.  Neighbors checked on neighbors.  It’s a great community we live in” Fransen said.

Staff Photos Becky Jane Newbold

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