Cocke County mayor, EMA order evacuation along rivers due to flooding


(WATE) — The Cocke County mayor and Cocke County Emergency Management Agency ordered the evacuation of all persons along area rivers due to substantial flooding in the area after rain swept across East Tennessee and western North Carolina on Tuesday and overnight Wednesday.

River levels were reportedly receding by Wednesday mid-morning.

In a notice sent out late Tuesday night, Mayor Crystal Ottinger ordered the evacuation of all persons along the Pigeon, French Broad and Nolichucky rivers.

Local schools would be used as temporary shelters:

  • Bridgeport School
  • Parrotsville School
  • Cocke County High School
  • Cosby High School

“These should be used only as a last resort as they are not designed for long-term stays or comfort,” the mayor’s letter stated of the temporary school shelters.

Cocke County Schools are also closed Wednesday for students and staff due to flooding.

The Cocke County Emergency Management Agency also said late Tuesday that the flooding would be “unlike anything we have seen since 2004 and is being referred to as a 100-year event.”

“The point of origin for water we have not yet seen is Canton, NC,” Cocke County EMA officials stated on social media late Tuesday. “I cannot reasonably tell you how far to move from the water’s edge as I don’t know your elevation, or how much water will dissipate to farmland before it reaches you, or how much water will merge from contributories before they reach you. Please use your best judgment and move to a higher elevation and away from the water’s edge. Again, The dam is functioning as it should but there is a massive amount of water headed our way.”

County Mayor Ottinger was posting updates to her social media overnight regarding the flooded areas; relaying to people that several roads in the county were flooded and impassable. Ottinger also thanked first responders and county workers.

“When you see any of our first responders, road workers and utility workers thank them,” Ottinger said in a social media post early Wednesday morning. “They do this type of thing all the time and work so hard in some terrible situations trying to help others. We are so blessed to have so many people willing to do whatever they can to help out. Remember them in the coming days as they continue to check roads and monitor the flood hazards.”

Ottinger had also posted about the dam functioning despite the floodwaters.

“The dam is (in) function as it is designed and intended to,” Ottinger said. “There is no failure or breach. There is a massive amount of floodwaters heading our way, however.”

This is a developing story. Download the WATE 6 News app for updates sent to your phone.

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