Downtown Etowah floods businesses, forces them to close

Becky's Flooded Diner. (Courtesy: Rebecca Shaw)

Flooding overnight Tuesday closed Becky's Diner in Downtown Etowah for just over 24 hours.

"It was very emotional. Heartbreaking. You put a lot of time and energy into everything," Rebecca Shaw, owner of Becky's Diner told NewsChannel 9 Wednesday afternoon.

After four months of "painting, waxing the floors, getting everything just how you want it to be," Shaw opened Becky's Diner just three weeks ago.

Shaw said she was "born to cook."

Etowah Commissioner Roby Helm told NewsChannel 9 an "unexpected and powerful" storm hit Etowah around 7:30 Tuesday night.

According to Helm, City Manager Tina Tuggle reported that "at the most severe part of the storm...the rainfall was averaging around 6.5 inches per hour."

"It just started raining and you couldn’t even see your hand in front of your face," Shaw said.

Once the storm passed, the restaurant owner stopped by her establishment to check in.

She found a street flooded outside and water seeping into the more than hundred year old building housing her diner.

"Once water starts going it’s got nowhere to go. It’s going to find somewhere to leak in or to move so it came up underneath the door," Shaw said as she gave us a tour of the now dry diner.

Shaw said she and four others spent the entire night pushing water out of the building "with brooms, push brooms, pushing it out the front door, shop vacs."

In the daylight, little evidence remains of the nearly foot of water that infiltrated her business.

"It’s just a little mom and pop place, but it’s all cleaned up," she said.

Becky is getting ready to open tomorrow but still questions how the city's drainage system didn't prevent the flooding.

Commissioner Helm says the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is two blame.

Commissioner Helm says two canals protected by TDEC used to drain the flood plain that is the City of Etowah's Downtown District.

"Both of these canals need to be cleaned and dredged to allow runoff through town from west to east and allowed to drain into Cane Creek. TDEC will not permit the City of Etowah Public Works Department to put any equipment into the two canals to clean out overgrowth and silt in the bottom of the canals. Therefore, every time we have a heavy rain shower in Etowah, many of our downtown businesses flood, including our Historic 1906 Train Depot that is the Centerpiece of our city," said Helm.

Becky's Diner wasn't the only business forced to close after floodwater ravaged the Downtown District.

Commissioner Helm says the Dojo downtown was also closed Wednesday as it recovered from flooding.

Commissioner Helm also says "Anderson’s Drug Store on Tennessee Avenue, and a couple of other businesses on Ohio Avenue were also closed today due to the flooding. Tennessee Avenue (U.S. Highway 411) was closed in both directions last night between around 7:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. due to flooding."

Despite the threat of facing flood waters again, Shaw says she has no plans to leave the historic builiding she now calls home.

"You take the good with the bad and you just clean it up and move on. You’ve got to,"

Becky's diner opens Thursday morning at 11.

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