FLASH floods submerge parts of Appalachia in water 20 feet deep; two reported dead

Monday, August 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Willie Hensley surveyed flood damage to his small, tin-roofed house, where rescuers had pulled him out by rope because of flood water.

``That place may not look like much, but it's home,'' he said Sunday.

Water up to 20 feet deep washed out homes, roads and bridges over the weekend in northeast Tennessee after 12 inches of rain fell in 24 hours. No deaths or injuries were reported in Tennessee. One person died in flash floods Saturday in eastern Kentucky, and one woman was missing.

Portions of western North Carolina also were damaged by flooding on Saturday. The storm followed a series of floods in southern West Virginia and western Virginia that have caused millions of dollars in damage this summer and killed three people.

In Tennessee over the weekend, flood water overturned septic tanks, and debris and mud covered the countryside. One home was torn from its foundation and deposited a quarter-mile away.

According to early damage estimates, about 100 bridges, dozens of roads and about 200 homes and trailers were damaged or destroyed. About 200 people were left homeless.

``They tell me there's not a loss of life, which is a miracle,'' Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist said after an aerial tour Sunday afternoon.

The governor saw two mobile homes pressed like accordions against a tree and a bridge. Wooden panels from destroyed barns floated in the rushing waters and a washer and dryer sat in a soaked pasture.

Hensley, who lives just outside Greeneville, was rescued from the flooding on Saturday. He said he hadn't wanted to leave but had no choice.

``It looked like a small river around my house,'' he recalled.

The flooding began when heavy rains Friday night and Saturday morning severely flooded three tributaries of the Nolichucky River in southeastern Greene County. A second round of rainfall followed later on Saturday.

``It rained so hard that it poured down the mountainside,'' Greene County Executive Alan Broyles said. ``It didn't have any place to go.''

Ten people, mainly hikers and campers in the Cherokee National Forest along the North Carolina border, were reported missing at one point but all were located by Sunday.

Kentucky authorities said flooding there caused millions of dollars in damage and probably damaged more than 1,000 homes.

Trees floating down rushing streams became battering rams that toppled utility poles. The churning flood also swept away underground water lines and washed away roads and bridges.

One road was erased, said Lon May, emergency operations director in Floyd County.

``The best way to describe it is to say it's not there, no asphalt, no gravel, nothing,'' he said. ``It's gone.''