Unicoi County sheriff advising residents in flooded areas to evacuate overnight

Sue Guinn Legg • Feb 6, 2020 at 8:09 PM

ERWIN — After a day of widespread flooding across Unicoi County, Sheriff Mike Hensley was advising those who live along creeks or in areas where flooding is already occurring to seek shelter elsewhere before nightfall.

“There is another front coming. We don’t know yet if it is going to be rain or snow,” Hensley said around 4:30 p.m. as the heaviest of the rain began moving out of East Tennessee and continued to fall in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

A National Weather Service flood advisory for the Nolichucky River remained in effect through 11 p.m.

The American Red Cross of Northeast Tennessee opened a shelter at Erwin Church of Christ at 710 Rock Creek Road early in the day on Thursday. County residents fleeing high water near their homes were at the shelter late Thursday afternoon and preparing to stay for the night.

At 5:30 p.m., those traveling to the Red Cross shelter were advised to approach Rock Creek Road from the south along North Main Avenue from Exit 37 of Interstate 26 due to street flooding that had closed North Main at Tractor Supply. While street crews were working to clear what was believed to be a clogged storm drain causing the flooding on North Main, access to the shelter from Exit 36 was not possible at that time.

The town of Unicoi opened its Tourist Information and Visitors Center at 106 Unicoi Village Place near Exit 32 as a shelter for flood victims throughout the day on Thursday, but because of a lack of cots were unable to house two elderly town residents who evacuated their home after their driveway went under water.

Unicoi Police Chief Andy Slagle took the two evacuees to the Red Cross shelter in Erwin, and the visitors center closed for the night with a phone number posted on the door for anyone in need of shelter to call for assistance.

Ashley Shelton, Unicoi’s director of communications and programs, said, “We have blankets. We have food. We have drinks. The only thing we do not have is cots. If anyone needs to come in they can call the number on the door and (someone) can be there in 10 minutes.”

In addition to street flooding on Main Avenue, South Indian Creek was out of its banks and blocking roadways on the south side of Erwin and in the Temple Hill area. Road closures were also reported on Sandy Bottom Road near Exit 40 at Jackson Love Highway, on Guy Erwin Road near Justice Lane in the Temple Hill area and on Highway 107 (River Road/Hwy 81/S) between Erwin and Jonesborough.

In Unicoi, flooding was occurring along Unicoi Drive, Massachusetts Avenue, Marbleton Road, Whispering Pines Road, Willow Pond Road and other areas.

Unicoi County schools dismissed at 11 a.m. Thursday and will remain closed on Friday. Hensley said his deputies would be working with police officers in Erwin and Unicoi to monitor the water levels and the weather throughout the night.

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