By Michelle Price
UCBJ Managing Editor
Gainesboro – Recent flooding resulted in $3,995,000 in damages and emergency response expenditures in Jackson County according to a filing to FEMA. Jackson County is a part of the 16-county Tennessee filing for the severe storms of March 27 and March 28, 2021 and is second only to Davidson County in damages.
Together, the 16 counties in the joint PDA request reported more than $23.9 million in total damage to roads and bridges, and utilities and buildings, and for removing debris and taking other emergency measures for their disaster response. This damage estimate does not include damages to homes, vehicles and personal property.
“This flood in 2021 may have done more damage, as far as property damage, than the flood of 2010, if you factor in the county road damage, the flooded vehicles and houses,” said Jackson County Mayor Randy Heady. “The EMS/911 office had never flooded in its history and now it has.”
See related story: Three UC counties to be considered for federal disaster declaration
In previous severe storms, such as the one in 2010, water had risen close to the doors of the EMS/911 office but had never breached the building. During this storm, there was 4-5 inches of water in the building according to Jackson County EMS/EMA Director Keith Bean.
Water was a big issue with the storms washing out several water lines including the major lines that supplied most of the town of Gainesboro. Through the diligent efforts of the Jackson County Utility District and the Gainesboro Water Department, water service was restored to the majority of the water customers by March 30 and to all customers by April 2.
The damage with the longest lasting repercussions has been damage to state and county roads and clearing the slides on various county roads.
The storm fractured SR-262 with parts of the road washing out. The road and parts of the shoulder are now back open after TDOT patched it earlier this week to make it drivable.
“We’re in the phase of trying to get roads back where they are passable,” said Heady. “We still have some roads to get open. The Freestate bluff road is down to one lane. Big Bottom Road is closed with a major slide off the hill.”
The closure of Big Bottom Road adds between 12-15 minutes to the drive to Gainesboro for community residents because the only way to get to Gainesboro from the lower Big Bottom area or Upper Brimstone is to go up Mill Hill or to go back and come out Union Hill and Pine Lick.
“It’s a super long way around, but right now it’s the only way to get around it,” Heady added. “There are probably 20 homes affected by this slide, and it would be an extreme hardship to go up and over Mill Hill.”
There was also damage to farms, houses and vehicles, and one house on Spring Creek was washed away by the rushing waters.
“We will recover from this just like we have everything else,” Heady said.
“I am so proud of our EMS, EMA, rescue, volunteer fire departments across the county and how they reacted to make sure we had rescues and no loss of life,” Heady added. “We did not lose a single individual during this flood. That is a huge moment and thank God for that moment. I’m just glad that he had his hand of protection on us.”