As News Channel 11 marks 70 years of serving the Tri-Cities, station staff are taking a look back at some of the region’s biggest stories over the decades. Join us as we retell the tales that shaped the community.
CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – In early January of 1998, communities across Carter County were fresh from the holidays. Not long after, the region would need to recover from some of the worst flooding seen in the area’s history.
The Flood of ’98
On Jan. 7, 1998, a winter storm brought devastation to the small towns and rural communities of Carter County, Tennessee. According to the National Weather Service, both a flash flood watch and warning had been issued for the county by 9:18 p.m. on the 7th. Around three hours later, several residents of the region were dead.
Six deaths were caused by two different vehicles attempting to cross the raging floodwaters.
One member of the death toll was Carles “Junior” Godsey, a first responder with the Kingsport Lifesaving Crew that was thrown into the turbulent water after a fully-crewed rescue boat was torn apart.
The event received national attention as cold, muddy water continued to rage through the county. Elizabethton saw the Doe River rise to just under the historic Covered Bridge, threatening to sweep it away.
Hampton saw the destruction of homes by the dozen, and hundreds of structures were impacted throughout the county.
The floods were so devastating, in fact, that then-Vice President Al Gore visited the county to see the damage for himself.