UPDATE: Rhea Co. road washes out after storms, one killed, two i - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Rhea Co. road washes out after storms, one killed, two injured

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It will be a somber holiday for one family here in the Old Washington community of Rhea County, Tennessee.

Strong, overnight storms literally washed away a stretch of Highway 30 that spanned over the Rattan Creek. Two cars were caught in the swift water current,  nd two people would ultimately be rescued.

But for one 22-year-old, he perished in these storm waters.

"Do you know exactly what happened?  I mean can you tell me? I can take it."

Donna Howard asks her nephew's would-be rescuer what he saw around 3:30 on the morning of Christmas Eve, shortly after she got word that Dakota Howard died in the early morning mishap.

"Do you know what its like when the water is so strong that I can't get both of them? " rhetorically asks the neighbor, who declined to identify himself in respect to the deceased and his family.

But he was able to rescue Dakota Howard's passenger, identified as 22-year-old Dustin Smith.

Another vehicle, driven by Steven Dowd, also went into the creek but Dowd survived as well

"It was a lot more rain than we're accustomed to, I've heard estimates of up to six inches within an hour," says Chris Smith, TDOT's regional supervisor shortly after authorities were able to retrieve Howard's body.

The preliminary cause of death is drowning.

"It was a very unfortunate incident, again the forces of nature are beyond our control," says Smith.

Highway 30 at New Union Road is closed for the interim, TDOT says they've acquired more pipe in nearby Sequatchie County that will help them fix this repair, but it could be anywhere from two weeks until Highway 30 is re-opened.

PREVIOUS STORY: According to Lt. John Harmon, THP, there were two vehicles washed away when a portion of Highway 30 washed away around 3:30 this morning.

The first vehicle, a Nissan 370Z, was washed away. The driver, 22 year-old Dakota Howard, was washed away in the flood waters and later located. He passed away as a result. According to THP, his family has been notified. His passenger, 22 year-old Dustin Smith, survived the incident.

Minutes later a second vehicle, driven by Steven Dowd of Dayton was washed away. Dowd busted out the window of his Ford pickup truck to escape the rushing water.

THP has closed a portion of Highway 30 and is asking drivers to find alternative routes.

PREVIOUS STORY: The Tennessee Emergency Management says that a 22-year-old man was killed Rhea County.

The road at TN State Highway 30 and North Union Road washed away around 4:00am Thursday, taking two vehicles with it.

One person was able to escape; the second person did not.

THP has not been able to recover the vehicle because the roadway is unstable, they're still at the scene working to determine if there are additional victims.

The THP has not yet identified the victim.

The death marks the third such death related to the recent storms. Two people were killed in Perry County after storms moved through Tennessee Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

TEMA shares the following information:

The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) remains at a Level III-State of Emergency, as of 8 p.m., CST on Wed., Dec. 23, 2015, in response to the showers and severe storms in the state yesterday. 
Heavy rain remains on Tennessee’s eastern border and is expected to move out of the state today.
There are three confirmed fatalities in Tennessee from the severe weather.
Rhea County (1):  male, 22-years-old
Perry County (2):  male, 70-years-old; female, 69-years-old
Power outages are isolated with 298 reports in the state, primarily in Cheatham, Sevier, Shelby and Wilson counties.
There are no shelters open in the State. 
Local officials will be surveying damage today in several counties reporting storm impacts. McNairy County (12 to 15 homes damaged) and Wayne County (Post Office destroyed) are a couple of the hardest hit in terms of damage.  There is isolated damage in 11 other Tennessee counties, including Dyer, Hickman, Hardeman, Lawrence, Madison, Montgomery, Perry, Rhea, Sumner, Weakley and Wilson. This total may increase as officials are able to assess the storm’s impact in daylight.
National Weather Service officials from the Memphis and Nashville offices will also be conducting surveys to confirm tornado touchdowns.
TEMA is also working with the Tennessee Civil Air Patrol to schedule flyovers in counties reporting damage.


  • Dyer – Trees down between Dyersburg and Begota
  • Hardeman – Building damaged
  • Hickman – Trees down
  • Lawrence – Homes damaged, trees blocking roads
  • Madison – Power lines down and two homes impacted
  • McNairy – 12 to 15 homes reported damaged
  • Montgomery – Sub-station damaged
  • Perry – Home damaged
  • Rhea – Wash out on State Route 30
  • Sumner – Trees down and power lines damaged
  • Wayne – Post Office destroyed, homes damaged
  • Weakley – Home damaged in Martin
  • Wilson – Boat dock damaged


The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) is staffed with personnel from the TEMA, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee Department of Health, Tennessee Department of Human Services and Tennessee Department of Transportation. 
SEOC staff is also coordinating and in communication with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Tennessee Department of Military.
TEMA has deployed District Coordinators to Wayne and Perry counties to assist with storm response.
The Tennessee Department of Military has placed two helicopters on standby
The Tennessee Highway Patrol deployed its Lawrenceburg Strike Team to Wayne and Perry counties to assist locals with traffic control and other safety related duties.

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