Flooding strikes Southeast

BY PJ HELLER | NASHVILLE, TN. | March 18, 2002


Torrential rains, flooding, high winds and tornadoes and cold winter weather socked many parts of the nation just days before spring was officially scheduled to arrive.

Heavy rains flooded parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia, leaving at least two people dead and forcing more than 100 from their homes. In Mississippi, two schools and more than 60 homes were damaged, some extensively, after high winds and tornadoes packing winds of 73 and 112 miles per hour ripped through a three-county area.

More rain was forecast Monday across a wide area from Texas to the Carolinas.

In Tennessee, where both fatalities were reported, more than 4 inches of rain fell on the state over the weekend. More than 100 people were evacuated from their homes in Sevier County in the eastern part of the state. High water blocked roads in the area and heavily damaged one bridge. Shelters were set up in Sevier, Loudon and Blount counties, which were among the hardest hit areas in the eastern part of the state.

Kentucky reported up to 6 inches of rain; flash flooding destroyed or damaged at least 60 homes in Harlan and Knox counties in the southeastern part of the state. A temporary shelter was set up in Harlan Sunday night. Flooding, mud slides and power outages were reported in seven other counties. Some schools were forced to close. Rescuers used boats to help evacuate residents. Up to 4 1/2 inches fell on southwestern Virginia, where about a dozen residents in Saltville were forced to flee their homes Monday. Record flooding was reported along the Clinch and Holston rivers in Virginia.

Cold temperatures combined with winds of up to 51 mph kept an icy grip on Michigan, where the wind chill dipped to 3 degrees. The high winds knocked out power to more than 150,000 DTE Energy customers, some of whom were not expected to have power restored until Tuesday.

The storm also ripped the roofs off several barns at the Hazel Park Raceway in Oakland County. One barn was blown down.

In California, meantime, Bay Area cities from San Francisco to Santa Cruz recorded the coldest daytime temperatures ever. Snow fell at elevations as low as 2,000 feet. A tornado was sighted near Dixon but no damage was reported.

In Mississippi, however, tornadoes and high winds heavily damaged West Jones High and Middle schools, giving the 1,400 students at both schools an extended spring break. The middle school was described as "a total loss."

Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove declared states of emergency in Hinds, Rankin and Jones counties.

The deaths in Tennessee included a 17-year-old boy who drowned after he and two others attempted to push their stalled truck our of floodwaters. The other two teens were not injured.

The downpour in Nashville, where up to 3 inches of rain fell since Saturday, wasn't enough to deter the city's first St. Patrick's Day parade. A 112-year-old statue of St. Patrick led the parade, covered in hooded plastic rain gear.


Related Topics:

Severe storms, flooding drench Southeast

2nd of three storms to bring ice

Icy storm grips South and Midwest


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