TDOT blamed for flooding that traps residents in homes

The chain hanging across the entrance to Charles Gilreath's driveway isn't to keep out unwanted guests.
Updated: Feb. 3, 2022 at 6:11 PM CST
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WAVERLY, Tenn. (WSMV) - The chain hanging across the entrance to Charles Gilreath’s driveway isn’t to keep out unwanted guests.

A Humphreys County man said his driveway, which stands over a creek, will fall apart because its rock foundation has washed away.

“I don’t want nobody driving on the driveway and it collapsing on them,” Gilreath said.

Gilreath doesn’t blame mother nature: he blames TDOT.

If you watch a home video made by Gilreath’s wife of when floodwaters trap them in their home, you can hear her say, “We’re being flooded. Thanks to the state.”

Gilreath’s neighbor, May Anderson, has lived in her home in 1946 and said her property never flooded until TDOT widened Highway 13 in 2008.

The front of her property has been eaten away by floodwaters.

“It took part of my yard away from me. So it’s just more or less a constant worry when they start saying we may have flooding,” Anderson said.

Gilreath said since the highway widened, TDOT put in a flood control system in which water drains into the median of the road and is then dumped into the creek in front of their homes.

Gilreath said his property had flooded five times since 2008, gradually worsening.

He said the trenches in the ditch before their yards are too small, and the amount of water has nowhere to go but towards their homes.

The force of the water is responsible for washing away the rock foundation underneath his driveway.

“I was trapped. I couldn’t drive across this because I was afraid it would wash me into the creek,” Gilreath said.

TDOT has faced similar criticism before.

News4 Investigates found just up the road on Highway 13, TDOT’s management of a trench and an overgrown ditch is also blamed for flooding Paul Turner’s property.

A TDOT spokeswoman told News4 Investigates that the culvert systems can’t keep up with increasing rain amounts in both cases.

“It’s not like they were put there improperly, to begin with. They were old and outdated. (The rain) is too much for the culverts to handle,” said Rebekah Hammonds, TDOT spokeswoman.

Zach Bartscherer, a flood expert with the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Flood Prepared Communities, said cities and counties across the nation are grappling with increasing rains and old infrastructure.

Bartscherer is meeting with Tennessee lawmakers to urge them to take action now.

“It’s a scary trend and one we can’t escape from. But what we can do is take steps to improve our infrastructure,” Bartscherer said.

But it’s the speed of improving infrastructure that has neighbors frustrated.

In October, they complained to TDOT, and the permit to add more culverts is still in the evaluation process.

“What do you say to these homeowners? Is the message right now you’re just going to have to sit and wait?” asked News4 Investigates.

“We could have gotten that permit filed sooner. Totally understand. But getting the permit approved has taken more time than we anticipated, and our hands are tied there,” Hammonds said.

Hammonds said they are asking the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conversation to expedite the permit.

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