Heavy rains don't bring flooding to Carter County on Friday

John Thompson • Updated Dec 28, 2018 at 11:59 PM

ELIZABETHTON — With rain falling on Carter County’s mountains from 11 p.m. Thursday to Friday afternoon, there were lots off worries about flash flooding and road washouts.

But the county survived the first of several rainy days practically unscathed.

Billy Harrell of the Carter County Emergency Management Agency said floodwaters did get inside a small apartment complex on Carl Smith Road in the Swimming Pool section of Hampton. He said two people were evacuated and housed by the Red Cross.

Harrell said the emergency personnel were able to breathe a sigh of relief when the level of the Doe River started going down in the early afternoon. The river spiked at 6.68 feet, which was well below minor flood level of 8 feet.

While the rapid drop in the level of the Doe prevented a catastrophe, the county is vulnerable to many areas of flash flooding from mountain streams. That appeared to be the more likely emergency that Carter County was facing, but county Mayor Rusty Barnett said the Carter County Highway Department’s workers prevented that problem.

“Those men did a great job keeping the tiles and ditches open and the water flowing,” Barnett said Friday afternoon. Barnett spent the day in the areas most likely to suffer flood damage and he said he watched the men using their machines to pull logs, branches, debris and trash out of the drainage systems. He said the men pulled it out as fast as the rivers could deposit the material.

“(Carter County Highway Superintendent) Roger Colbaugh and his men did a great job,” Barnett said.

So, the rivers continued to flow within their banks from the highest mountain roads down to the Watuga River.

The emergency workers now have a reprieve, with no rain in the forecast for today. A forecaster with the National Weather Service wrote in his forecast discussion to “enjoy Saturday. Fair skies and mild temperatures will not be enough to promote significant drying of our saturated soils before the next round of rain arrives by New Years Eve, but area rivers will be able to recede at least somewhat.”

So, at the time the flash flood alert expired in Carter County on Friday, the emergency workers gathered at Jiggy Ray’s Pizzeria, just a block from the roaring Doe River, to finally get a good meal and to celebrate prospects for a sunny Saturday.