Shirley Crowe stands near the fast moving Cobb Creek running beside her home on East Brook Lane in Johnson City. (Ron Campbell/ Johnson City Press)
Shirley Crowe’s basement used to have a furnished bedroom, a treadmill, paneled walls and a pool table in it, but after constantly getting hit with high waters from Cobb Creek entering her home on East Brook Lane, she’s since stripped that area down to just the basics.
“Last year, I had five and a half feet of water in my basement,” Crowe said. “I had to replace my heat pump, my washer, my dryer and I didn’t put anything else back. We lost all of that.”
Crowe said she’s lived in the home going on 49 years and said when she and her husband first moved in, Morris-Baker Funeral Home did not exist and said Cox’s Lake was there instead.
“They filled all that in (the lake) and this little creek just can’t carry everything,” Crowe said. “When it rains a lot, this creek gets up. The culvert is just not big enough to ca rry it.”
Cobb Creek flows behind Crowe’s home, through a culvert to the left of her home, down along East and West Brook lanes and underneath Oakland Avenue, where it then parallels along Austin Springs Road all the way to Boone Lake.
The culvert causing problems for Crowe whenever there’s a heavy rain runs between her home and her neighbor’s home underneath East Brook Lane. She said the end of the culvert, which empties at East Brook Lane’s edge, contains rock placed by the city of Johnson City, but Crowe said the road has been deteriorating.
“The city came out ... and put more rock out, but the rock just washes down in that creek. The road has fallen in over there and what worries me (is) when the garbage trucks go around ... they’re heavy. I’m afraid the road’s going to keep falling in,” Crowe said.
She said city personnel have even placed big orange barrels around the edge of the road to mark the fallen sections, and said she’s had to push one of those barrels over a hole that’s currently in the pavement.
“I’m afraid one of the little dogs around here will get in it,” Crowe said.
After Wednesday’s afternoon rain, creek waters behind her home were still moving quickly and the grass lines along the bank of the creek near the home indicated the height of the flooding.
Crowe said the city had at one time built a berm to help with flood prevention, but said it sank into the ground. Members of her church –– Harrison Christian Church –– helped build her a retaining wall around the backside of her home, but flood waters even topped that.
Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said he went out to East Brook Lane on Thursday after Crowe called about the flooding and said they’ve been assessing the area for an action plan.
“We advised the commission that ... that’s a sensitive stream that is ... susceptible to flooding much quicker than many of the other waterways. In fact, the two that are most prone to flooding would be King Creek, (which) feeds into downtown, and Cobb Creek,” Pindzola said. “We’re looking downstream to see if in fact there may be a way to release the water quicker and not have places, like at Oakland Avenue, flood.”
Pindzola said the city is assessing homes downstream and estimating the overall impact if they were to release the water.
“Those would be (our) highest priorities if we were to do anything. We would more than likely have to acquire those properties,” Pindzola said. “That may or may not have an effect on Mrs. Crowe and it may or may not necessitate the purchase of Mrs. Crowe’s property as well.”
He said one plan could potentially be to raise the road and create a culvert system that would withstand any storm event and would not cause backup when it rains. Pindzola said the creek would no longer detain the water, but rather release it.
“We don’t know ... the total cost of doing that and that’s being assessed,” he said.
Pindzola said because of the increased rains, plans to control flooding in that area may accelerate faster.
“We’re actually analyzing the budget to see what monies might be available to look at relief on Cobb Creek,” he said.