Three to 6 inches of rainfall last Wednesday and Thursday caused rivers in the Mountain Empire to rise — several above flood stage — and rain remains in the forecast this week.
National Weather Service offices in Morristown, Blacksburg and Charleston were monitoring rivers across Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee as a cold front dumped heavy rain in the region.
Meteorologist Lyle Wilson in Morristown, Tennessee, said officials were watching the Clinch, Powell and North Fork of the Holston rivers. By late Thursday, Wilson said river levels actually stayed below forecasted crests, but water was still rising in some locations.
The Clinch River reached 14.3 feet at Richlands, Virginia, on Thursday, about 4.3 feet above flood stage, Wilson said.
The event, listed by the NWS as a moderate flood, compared to a similar flood in 2003. Major flooding for the Clinch at Richlands is 16 feet, according to the NWS.
The Holston River at Saltville reached 10.4 feet, the NWS said. Wilson noted that the Holston had only minor flooding; its flood stage is at 10 feet. Thursday’s flood in Washington County, Virginia, was similar to one in 2017.
At Gate City, the Holston surpassed the 12 feet flood stage.
Emergency management officials said the Holston River flooding caused some road closings.
One Washington County couple who resides along the Holston returned home early Thursday to find half of their backyard under water.
“I ain’t seen it this high,” said James Malone, 30, looking at the river from his driveway.
The river spilled over its banks and its brown waters were creeping toward homes along North Fork River Road.
He estimated that about 8 feet of water rose from the river to surround a stretch of trees in his backyard. By around noon, the floodwaters covered the roadway, making the road impassable about a half-mile from Porterfield Highway.
Malone and his fiancée, Megan Wilson, walked up to the water and pointed to parts of their backyard that were either submerged or barely visible.
“You can see that fence post right down there in the corner,” Malone said, pointing to a small nub poking out above the water.
A walkway going down to the river was completely covered, said Wilson, 22.
At around 12:30 p.m., the water was moving up toward a short flood wall that ran through their backyard.
“I think it will be worse, I think it will come up over the wall,” Malone said.
The Tennessee Valley Authority, which controls many waterways in the region, including the Holston, was actively working to manage the flows on the rivers. The TVA said it began sluicing, or releasing water, at Boone Dam and generators are running around the clock to control water levels.
With 3-6 inches of rain forecast for parts of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia this week, local officials are concerned about the possibility of renewed flooding. Through Thursday, the Tri-Cities will likely see closer to 3 inches while higher elevations in Southwest Virginia might have 4-5 inches, said Tim Doyle, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service Office in Morristown, Tennessee.
“We’re extremely concerned, considering the ground saturation from the water we already received,” said Theresa Kingsley, emergency management coordinator for Washington County, Virginia.
Kingsley said she had seen projections of 2-4 inches of rain for Washington County this week, and if they receive the higher end of that range, flooding may be more likely.
Heavy rainfall is anticipated through Thursday, with thunderstorms possible Wednesday night into Thursday, according to NWS.
Staff writer Tim Dodson contributed to this article.