Homes destroyed, evacuated after wall fails at TVA plant

Homes destroyed, evacuated after wall fails at TVA plant

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This picture was submitted by Luke Hall, who lives near the scene. This picture was submitted by Luke Hall, who lives near the scene.
Here's another picture submitted by Luke Hall. Here's another picture submitted by Luke Hall.
And another of Luke Hall's pictures And another of Luke Hall's pictures
The breach released a torrent of ash and water with so much force it pushed the Flinn family's house off its foundation and into the middle of what used to be a street. The breach released a torrent of ash and water with so much force it pushed the Flinn family's house off its foundation and into the middle of what used to be a street.
The collapse of the retention wall caused this flood. The collapse of the retention wall caused this flood.

HARRIMAN (WATE) -- Nine homes were damaged, three were destroyed and one person was rescued early Monday morning after the collapse of a retention wall at TVA's Kingston Fossil Plant.

This map shows the area that was affected:

What happened

TVA says the ash slide, which happened just before 1:00 a.m., is estimated to be from four to six feet deep and affects an area between 250 and 400 acres.

Many more homes were evacuated for fear of flooding. However, no serious injuries were reported in the area near the coal-fired TVA plant at the confluence of the Emory and Clinch Rivers, near Kingston.

The collapsed dike surrounded a 40 acre ash pond. TVA spokesman Gil Francis says the mixture of ash and water contained no hazardous materials.

Francis isn't sure what caused the collapse, although he suspects heavy rains and cold temperatures in recent days may have played a role.

Residents escape homes, survey damage

The breach released a torrent of ash and water with so much force it pushed the Flinn family's house off its foundation and into the middle of what used to be a street.

Crystell Flinn said her husband was inside asleep when their house was hit.

As he woke up, he heard windows were breaking and thought a tree had hit the house. Then, he realized the house was moving. 

Her husband broke a window and was able to escape the house. Flinn says she doesn't think anything in it is salvageable. Her family lost a previous home to a fire.

Another man whose property was covered by debris, Chuck Strayer, said, "The area of impact, it looked like a Grand Canyon and it was not an exaggeration at all.It's every bit of what I've seen at the Grand Canyon."

MORE ABOUT THE ASH CONTAINMENT AREA
  • Ash is a by-product of the power plant. It's stored in containment areas.
  • The ash containment area here is about 80 acres.
  • At the time of the slide, about 2.6 million cubic yards of ash were contained in the area. This was within the guidelines for it.
  • The containment areas are inspected annually by TVA. This area was last inspected in fall 2008.
  • This is one of three similar containment areas at Kingston.

Cleanup efforts

Crews totaling 90 people who used around 30 pieces of equipment put up barriers to stop the movement of the ash and start cleaning up.

Teams will also sample water in the area and conduct damage assessments.

River flow at Kingston was reduced to a minimum to keep ash from moving downstream on the Tennessee River. Flows were also reduced downstream at Watts Bar Dam, as a precaution.

However, TVA says there are no expected impacts to Watts Bar or Sequoyah nuclear plants.

Engineers were called to the site to determine the structural integrity of homes affected by the collapse. They say the homes still aren't stable enough for residents to be allowed back in.

The ash slide also downed power lines, blocked Swan Pond Road and ruptured a gas line TVA plans to repair. It will take some time to clear Swan Pond Road, the utility says.

The train that entered the ash was later removed from the area.

TVA and local utility crews are assessing how the area's power distribution system has been affected.

Shelter opened, motel assistance provided

The Red Cross responded to the landslide by opening a shelter at Roane State Community College. It will be manned as long as needed.

Anyone who needs assistance can call (865)-717-4006.

Eight Red Cross volunteers are providing food and drink service to as many as 100 emergency workers responding to the area. The organization got the call around 2:15 a.m. Monday.

A TVA spokeswoman says water and sewer service has been cut off to homes in the vicinity of the breach because a water line broke. 

Crews went door to door Monday leaving letters explaining they would provide temporary housing at the Holiday Inn or Quality Inn of Harriman, depending on if the family had pets.

TVA is putting up 10 families so far and will assist others without water who call the hotline.

6 News Reporter Hana Kim contributed to this report.

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