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Interstate Closed, Towns Threatened by Floods Across South


This image provided by the Tennessee Department of Transportation show damage to State Route 70 in Surgoinsville, Tenn., following a mudslide, Feb. 21, 2019. Elsewhere in Tennessee, Interstate 40 has been closed by a rockslide.

Homes, highways, parks and bridges throughout the South have been flooded or put out of commission Saturday, as the toll of days of drenching rains swelled waterways and pooled over saturated lands amid a threat of severe storms.

Interstate 40 near the Tennessee line with North Carolina was closed by a rockslide, one of the dozens of roads and highways shut down throughout the South, transportation officials said.

Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Nagi said on Twitter that a “full scale detour” was in place, with traffic being diverted to Interstate 81 and Interstate 26.

Tornado, flooding in Mississippi

A tornado, confirmed by radar, touched down in the easter Mississippi city of Columbus Saturday about 5 p.m. local time. No deaths or serious injuries were immediately reported, but the city's commercial district was smashed.

In Bruce, Mississippi, rivers broke flood stage and flash floods poured into homes and businesses. News outlets report that a local state of emergency was declared by officials in Grenada, Mississippi, after dozens of streets and homes flooded. A six-mile (nine-kilometer) stretch of the Natchez Trace Parkway was closed in Mississippi after water covered part of the road.

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for northwestern Lafayette County in Mississippi until 7:30 p.m. after emergency officials reported that a dam was at risk of failing.

Meteorologist Kole Fehling says emergency officials reported the threat involved the Audubon Dam, which blocks a creek on the northside of Oxford and a subdivision. Emergency management officials were not immediately available for comment Saturday.

Lafayette County authorities oversee a break in the Audubon Dam in the North Point subdivision in Oxford, Miss., Feb. 23, 2019.
Lafayette County authorities oversee a break in the Audubon Dam in the North Point subdivision in Oxford, Miss., Feb. 23, 2019.

Mudslides in Tennessee

High water also threatened property in Tennessee, which, like many other areas of the South, has been soaked by several inches of rain over the past week. Officials said a mudslide destroyed a Subway restaurant in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. No injuries were reported.

News outlets report that water rescues have been performed in some Middle Tennessee counties. Flash flood warnings and watches remained in place throughout the South.

Weather officials warned residents of the possibility of severe storms Saturday in western Tennessee, northern Mississippi and eastern Arkansas. Damaging winds, tornadoes and large hail were possible, the National Weather Service in Memphis reported.

Ohio River bridge closes

Kentucky announced Friday that it was closing the U.S. 51 bridge over the Ohio River to Cairo, Illinois, because of flooding on the southern approach. The bridge, which carries 4,700 vehicles a day, is likely to stay closed until Thursday, and possibly longer.

Near Jamestown, Kentucky, the Army Corps of Engineers said it was increasing releases from the Wolf Creek Dam on the Cumberland River. Areas downstream of the dam, from Rowena to Burkesville, could be affected by flooding as a result, officials said.

The Ohio River at Cairo is predicted to crest Sunday at its third-highest level ever recorded, and stay that high into next week. The Tennessee River near Savannah, Tennessee, also is forecast to crest at near-record levels.

In North Carolina, a Catawba County building inspector said extra weight from rain is suspected to have contributed to a partial roof collapse at a child day care center in Hickory. The Hickory Daily Record reported that firefighters responded to a roof collapse at Rainbow Child Care Center on Thursday morning. There were no children at the facility at the time, and no injuries were reported.