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Doe flooding closes Highway 143; Rescue Squad braves raging river to rescue stranded motorist

John Thompson • Updated Oct 23, 2017 at 11:00 PM

ROAN MOUNTAIN — Heavy rains on Monday afternoon led to the flooding of Tenn. Highway 143 below Roan Mountain State Park. Carter County Highway Superintendent Roger Colbaugh said the state highway and several of the county roads that branch off Tenn. 143 were flooded by the Doe River.

"The bridges just couldn't handle the amount of water flowing beneath them," Colbaugh said Monday evening. He said some tiles became clogged with logs and litter, but the flow was just heavier than the bridges could take.

The floodwaters receded quickly in Roan Mountain. At 7 p.m.. Colbaugh instructed the Tennessee Highway Patrol that Tenn. 143 could reopen.

Some of the county roads were more of a problem. Colbuagh said some roads were blocked by fallen trees or by rocks and other material. His crews were working late into the evening to clear the roads, which included Heaton Creek and Sugar Hollow Road.

Some of the worst damage was to Barlow Hollow Road in Cove Creek. The floodwaters cut into the road and part of the road is missing.

The road conditions led the Carter County School System to cancel classes for Tuesday.

“It was a lot like the Flood of 1998,” Colbaugh said. “The flood came over the bridges, there just wasn’t as much water this time.”

Colbaugh said there have been no reports of flooding in other sections of the county.

But the water that came down in Roan Mountain rolled on toward Elizabethton, and by evening water was rising close to the bottom of the historic Covered Bridge.

While most of the high water was above the village of Roan Mountain, the Carter County Rescue Squad was kept busy with two other emergencies, including a vehicle accident in Butler and a car that had run into the raging Doe below Simerly Creek.

Rescuers said a man driving northbound near the intersection with the Simerly Creek Road lost control of his vehicle and ran into the river. The force of the water moved the car about 200 feet downstream before it became lodged on the river bottom.

The Rescue Squad was soon on the scene with a rubber rescue boat. Swift water rescue members James Heaton and John Burleson quickly had the boat in position next to the car. Jackie Cable held a line that tethered the boat to the shore.

The unidentified driver waited in the open driver's side window as the boat reached him. Heaton and Burleson quickly transferred the driver from the car to the boat and paddled him to the river bank in a quick, smooth rescue.

The driver was able to walk under his own power to a waiting ambulance, which transported him to a local hospital.

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