Pigeon Forge crews busy with swift water rescues Tuesday

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PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE)– Several roads in Sevier County were flooded throughout the morning and into the evening after rains come through intermittently Tuesday.

With the localized flooding and thunderstorms, Pigeon Forge firefighters were busy fighting fires caused by lightning strikes and rescuing people stuck in floodwater.

Charles Powers, Deputy Chief of the Pigeon Forge Fire Department, said that after 8 a.m., it seemed like the water rescue calls kept coming in.

Around 8:09 a.m., the Pigeon Forge Fire Department responded to a water rescue call in the 2000 block of Ridge Road.

Firefighters successfully rescued a driver out of a flooded vehicle.

“A person in a car, trying to get down Ridge Road, drove through flooded water and got stranded,” Powers said.

The driver was not injured.

About 30 minutes later, crews also responded to a water rescue call at 2200 block of Valley Mountain Way in Sevierville.

“Someone was trying to leave their cabin, got stranded, and thankfully on that situation, some people at another cabin saw the vehicle and they’re the ones that actually called 911,” Powers said.

Powers said in those situations his crews decided whether they need to walk out to the vehicle in a group or deploy the rescue boat, which is basically a white water raft type boat.

If the water is too high, they’ll boat the driver back to dry land; if the water is a little lower, they’ll walk the driver to safety.

He said those situations are very dangerous for everyone involved, including his crews, who have been trained extensively for those swift water rescues.

Powers said it takes a lot of manpower because four or five rescuers are geared up heading into the water, while a couple of other team members are on dry land waiting to hand those in the water whatever they need to complete the rescue.

“A lot of people don’t realize when you drive through flood water, your vehicle stalls out, then you’re tying up numerous emergency responders, for that one incident. We may have somebody in another situation that needs help,” Powers said.

A couple of hours after those rescues, swift water rescue crews were called to another incident, but this time at an apartment building.

Walden’s Creek flows behind High Valley Drive, where the apartment was located.

Powers said his crews were notified by police that someone was on the second floor, and needed to get out, but couldn’t due to high water.

The swift water team boated up to the resident, Nathan Powers, and boated him down to dry land.

Nathan Powers told us he knew his back porch had flooded in the past, but he never saw it as high as he did Tuesday afternoon.

“I just woke up around 12 and I was like what’s going on? Go outside the patio and there’s just flooded, completely flooded back there. Little did I know when I walked back into the stairs, the second floor it’s like right where the windows are,” Nathan Powers said.

Charles Powers said a situation like that, or any flooded road, can be very dangerous to try to wade through.

“You don’t know what’s under there. You can step on something, or you know, step off of something. It could be the edge of the road that you don’t see or holes in the yard you don’t know what’s there. That water, you know, it can sweep you away in just a heartbeat,” Powers said.

Powers said when heavy rain is in the forecast, they make sure all hands are on deck in case they have to respond to multiple calls.

He said it is a team effort, county-wide, with public works crews and first responders.

Powers said people shouldn’t try to swim in the flood water–you know no idea what is floating in it–and also said when in doubt, turn around don’t drown.

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