The large amount of rain in the area has caused not only flood damage to roads and pastures, but has also caused flash flooding which can cause many accidents, injuries and deaths.
May 19, a woman from Evening Shade escaped injury when the truck she was driving was swept off Bear Creek Bridge near Evening Shade. She was able to escape the vehicle and call for help.
Evening Shade first responders, Evening Shade Volunteer Fire Department, Sharp County Deputy Trent Milligan and Spring River Ambulance Service responded around 9 p.m. on May 19. The woman's vehicle was recovered after midnight.
Statistics from the National Weather Service say that floods kill more people than lightning, tornadoes and even hurricanes.
On this particular bridge, there have been two deaths due to wash-offs. Deaths on other bridges in Sharp County have occurred as a result of the flooding Sharp County has grown accustomed to over the last few years.
According to information obtained from the National Weather Service's Flood Safety Web site, most of these accidents occur at night when, due to darkness, people tend to underestimate the depth of the water and continue across a bridge or flooded roadway with their vehicle.
Due to the flooding accidents in the county over the last few years, large metal gates have been installed across roads with locks. These gates are several yards from the bridges, yet the gates on both entrances to the Bear Creek Bridge were not closed the night of the accident, according to Evening Shade Fire Chief Chaney Emmerich. According to the statistics on the National Weather Service Web site, the problem with these gates is that they are essentially ineffective if there is no protocol to follow in regard to responsibility for closing the gates.
Sharp County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Gene Moore, said that it is the responsibility of area volunteer fire departments to close these gates in the event of rising water.
Evening Shade Fire Chief Chaney Emmerich said he, "has no earthly idea who is responsible for closing the gates." The gates were closed Wednesday morning just after 7 a.m. Moore said that Emmerich has only been the chief since January and it is possible that he wasn't informed of this duty from the prior fire chief and said that he would make sure that the department was made aware of this responsibility.
A National Weather Service campaign was enacted in 2005 to warn people about the hazards of driving or walking through flooded water. Turn Around Don't Drown (TADD) is aimed at preventing these deaths through education and signage that can be posted at entrances to potentially hazardous areas.
The National Safety Highway Commission says that a good rule to follow is if you can't see the lines in the road, don't drive on it. Because water, sand and mud are present in flooded areas, this further reduces the frictional forces that hold a vehicle in place. The commission also says that as little as one foot of water can move most cars off the road and six inches of fast moving water can sweep a person off their feet. Small streams can flood in hard rain in less than one hour.