By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
It seems that Cleveland has not gone a week without rain for several months and that can bring stress to the city’s drainage systems.
As of Wednesday, several areas around Cleveland were threatened with water as the drainage bayous approached the doorsteps of several houses.
Keith Christopher of Inframark, which manages the city water system, said the system has been doing its best to deal with the excess water.
“The whole system is full,” Christopher said Wednesday. “We’re doing all we can do keeping the pumps running and trying to keep the rags out of them.
“Right now, we’re 24/7.”
Cleveland Public Works Director Ray Bell said Wednesday, “So far we’ve been able to keep up because the rain has been coming kind of moderately. The drain ditches are getting full.
“The next few days will be real interesting to see how that pans out.”
Last year, Christopher, Bell and city engineer Josh McPherson expressed concern to the board of aldermen about the damage litter and prohibited items were doing to the city’s sewer and drainage system.
“We’re still digging that stuff out,” Christopher said Wednesday.
Putting trash into storm drains or flushing prohibited items down toilets creates a problematic effect for the city’s sewer system, which contributes heavily to drainage.
Such items can end up clogging the pumps and preventing water from being drained.
Christopher said the city has been aggressive in pursuing solutions to these issues.
“We’ve written a new sewer ordinance and we’re starting to go after some of these repeat offenders, some of these businesses that are flushing stuff that’s not supposed to be flushed.
“It’s an uphill pull,” Christopher said. “It’s a battle. We fight it every day and it becomes more of a problem when we’re having weather like we’re having.”
Christopher said that while the pumps need regular maintenance, everything looks to be working as intended.
“When you’ve got 50 or 60 pumps, pretty regularly you’re experiencing a problem with a pump and you have to pull it and put some barring in it or something of that nature. We’re all go right now.
“We’re just kind of hanging in there right now trying to keep the pumps open.”
In eastern Mississippi, officials in Starkville said the water at Oktibbeha County Lake had once again reached a critical level just weeks after heavy rains caused a mudslide that put the earthen dam in danger of failing.
Pumps had been used to lower the lake level by about 8 feet (2.4 meters) since mid-January, but officials said the water had risen to an even higher than before because of recent storms.
“It has risen over 8.5 feet from our low elevation during pumping and continues to rise,” said a statement by Kristen Campanella, emergency management director in Oktibbeha County.
Officials also were monitoring the site of a potential dam failure in Yazoo County, where the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said a 40-acre (16-hectare) lake in a subdivision was leaking around a culvert and washing away dirt, threatening four homes and a church. Five homes were evacuated after a levee breach in Leake.
Elsewhere in Mississippi, 25 homes had been damaged and four people were hurt in wrecks caused by vehicles hydroplaning on wet roads, according to the state. The damage was worst in Yazoo, where a dozen people were displaced from homes.
In addition, the National Weather Service confirmed Tuesday that an EF-1 tornado touched down Monday about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) northwest of Piave, Mississippi, in Greene County. The twister caused minor roof damage and uprooted several trees, the weather agency said.
Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee, tons of rock and soil slid off a 70-foot (21-meter) hillside and blocked the northbound side of a U.S. 441 spur linking the tourist towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, the National Park Service said.
At least 45 dump truck loads will be required to clear the road, officials estimated, but no injuires were reported.
Multiple roads were covered with water or washed out because of rainfall that exceeded 5 inches (7.6 centimeters) in spots across central Alabama, and forecasters said totals could reach 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) by nightfall.
North of Birmingham in Cullman, the sheriff’s office said Deputy Adam Clark and his police dog were badly injured in a wreck during heavy rains overnight. The cause of the crash was under investigation.
The Tennessee Valley region has received 550% of its normal rainfall during the past seven days, James Everett, senior manager of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s River Forecast Center, said in a briefing. Rainfall averaged around 6 inches (15 centimeters) across the valley, but some places got as much as 9 inches (23 centimeters).
Associated Press reporter Jeff Martin an Jay Reeves contributed to this report.