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Road crews battle aftereffects of Doe flooding

John Thompson • Updated Oct 24, 2017 at 11:36 PM

ROAN MOUNTAIN — Some of the hardest working people in Carter County on Tuesday were on the road crews of the Carter County Highway Department.

"Right now, we are trying to get everything put back so the school buses can run tomorrow and they will be able to have school," said Supervisor Jonathan Powell and he worked with a crew to get Garland Road opened.

The goal of getting school back in session on Wednesday was accomplished. Secondary Supervisor Danny McClain of the Carter County School System said schools will be open, but buses would not run on some of the secondary roads that were still damaged.

The men working with Powell were working to make sure the school bus would safely be able to run on Garland Road, despite the damage it had sustained Monday.

The road was cut right at its start, where it intersects with Cove Creek Road. A large tile that channels Cove Creek under Garland Road under normal conditions became clogged with large rocks and other debris carried by the rain-swollen Cove Creek.

With water no longer able to pass under the road, the raging creek tore two huge gashes in the road, leaving the useless tile in place. The water then rushed over Cove Creek Road and ate away at the bank, causing a great deal of erosion.

The crew used the rocks and fill that the creek had left behind in the tile. That rock was used to build back the road, recovering the tile.

The fix on nearby Stockton Road would not be as easy, Powell said. That road damage would require a new seven-foot tile. There was nothing that big in the road department's inventory, so the big tile would have to be ordered.

Other crews were making other road repairs throughout the area, from Heaton Creek to Hampton Creek.

One Highway Department employee was injured on Monday. Willie Campbell, also a member of the Carter County Commission, had just left the Highway Garage on Tuesday morning in a dump truck, headed for Roan Mountain, when a pickup truck reportedly pulled out in front of him.

Highway Superintendent Roger Colbaugh said Campbell was knocked out in the accident and was placed in a neck brace and transported to a local hospital. Campbell's condition was not immediately known.

Roan Mountain State Park reopened on Tuesday after the harrowing Monday afternoon. The main entrance into the park is on Tenn. Highway 143, and that highway was flooded by the Doe.

The biggest concern for Park Manager J.R. Tinch was the approximately 50 people in the park's campground. The only entrance to the campground is by a bridge over the Doe. He began evacuating the campers, moving them across the bridge to the safety of the rest of the park buildings.

"Some of the people were up on the hill and they did not realize how high the water was rising," Tinch said. "Some were reluctant to leave their campers behind, but when they got down to the bridge, they saw the reason we were rushing to get them out."

Tinch said the waters began receding in about three hours and the campers were allowed back into the campground. A few left, but he said most stayed. The campground was especially full for a weekday because this is the weekend of the extremely popular Halloween event in the park.

While the bridge to the campground withstood the floodwaters, Tinch said two pedestrian bridges did not. One was a steel structure at Picnic Shelter No. 2, which was bent, twisted and broken in two by the power of the Doe.

Little damage was reported in the village of Roan Mountain; much of the area that was under water is now a community park, created after the Doe River Flood of 1998.

Erik Anderson is a director of the Carter County Parks and Recreation Board. Much of his work is devoted to the Roan Mountain Community Park and he said some of the areas that had the most property damage in 1998 were merely flooded fields this time.

Some fences for ball fields and playgrounds were damaged or washed away. He said the best news was that there had been a delay in placing new rubberized mulch on the playground equipment. The mulch is scheduled to go in on Thursday.

Because the playground was in the main path of the flood water, Anderson said that would have meant the mulch would have been washed away.

Anderson also praised Carter County Planning Director Chris Schuettler and the staff of the planning office for working with the Parks and Recreation to make sure buildings were placed in the right spaces out of the flood zone.

"It was sometimes only a couple of feet," but they did it right," Anderson said.

There were also some anxious moments in Elizabethton, as residents watched the Doe continue to rise in its bed. Many used the Covered Bridge as a marker, watching as the gap between the waves and the bridge deck continued to narrow, but as it has since the Flood of 1998, the Flood of 1950 and several floods before that, the Queen of the Doe still stood.

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