Today is Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Water rescues by the dozen

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By ZACK OWENSBYThe Wilson PostEmergency crews had their hands full this past weekend rescuing dozens of stranded motorists and residents from quickly rising floodwaters.Far too many drivers took chances driving through floodwaters that perhaps they shouldn’t. Some were lucky, but many weren’t and wound up in need of assistance from rescue personnel from Wilson County Emergency Management Agency, Lebanon Public Safety, Wilson County Sheriff’s Department and other local departments.“In total, we carried out about 40 or 50 water rescues on Saturday and Sunday,” said John Jewell, director of WEMA. Lebanon Public Safety Commissioner Billy Weeks echoed Jewell’s numbers, saying fire and police swift-water rescue teams aided “about 20 vehicles and 19 people on Saturday, and probably that same amount again on Sunday.”Weeks admitted surprise on behalf of emergency personnel about the floodwaters that rose again Sunday after more torrential downpours.“Although it wasn’t a very large storm system,” Jewell said, “it just moved so slowly that it kept pounding down on us. I don’t think it ever got to moving faster than 7 or 8 miles an hour.”Jewell added that while there were several rescues, most were “not spectacular.”But to those they helped, they might be sand-bagging it a little.Two members of the Sheriff’s Department came upon an unidentified woman in a minivan who had been swept off the road at Oak Grove Road and Central Pike. After tying a rope around her, crews worked to get her to higher ground and out of the swift-moving waters.Members of the Wilson County DART team evacuated the Almost Home Pet Adoption Center in Lebanon late Saturday night. As the waters of Sinking Creek quickly rose to the outdoor and indoor kennels, volunteers and emergency personnel acted swiftly to get all 51 dogs and cats out of danger and to the Wilson County Fairgrounds.But crews didn’t have it easy, both Jewell and Weeks said, as many worked from sunup to sundown.Crews in Lebanon worked to fill sandbags to try to protect flood waters from local business and concerned residents who contacted the Public Safety Office. “It was a valiant but wasted effort,” Weeks said. “With how high the water eventually got, they didn’t help at all.”And due to the unpredictability of roadway flooding, emergency vehicles had difficulty getting to where they needed to go without taking detours. And where they couldn’t get their truck to rescue stranded people, they used rubber rafts evacuate residents and motorists to higher ground.A home located at 289 South Dickerson Road near Belotes Ferry Pike caught fire Sunday evening and is a complete loss, Jewell said. When the call came in around 7 p.m., twilight was making it even harder to navigate the treacherous roadways.A passenger train was stranded as well with 550 passengers from Nashville in the Brush Creek community on the line between Nashville and Cookeville. WEMA was called by the train operators and responded with 15 Wilson County School buses and transported the passengers to Nashville via interstates. No one was injured.The concern regarding the levels of the Cumberland River, which makes up the northern 53 miles of Wilson County’s border, called for wellness checks to residents who lived there.Jewell said although many of the boat docks and marinas are dealing with dangerously high waters, the residents there have been advised to keep watch of the river levels as local dams continue to release water from their reservoirs.But as for the city of Lebanon as a whole, Weeks said it could have been a lot worse. “As bad as it was we came out of it pretty good, on the whole,” Weeks said. “That’s definitely not the case for our neighbors who had their homes flooded, and we don’t want to make light of what they are still going through, but most businesses are back up and running and getting back to normal in the city.”Fortunately, there were no serious injuries due to the flooding, they added.Staff Writer Zack Owensby may be contacted at zowensby@wilsonpost.com.
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