Kingsport businesses clean up after heavy rain causes major flooding

East Market Street flooding

KINGSPORT, Tenn. - The intense rain hit even the heart of Kingsport, flooding nearly all of downtown. All day Thursday, businesses were out working to dry out their flood-damaged buildings, but everyone is still in shock.

Cathy Lounds still can't believe her eyes. "Oh my gosh, the worst ever. The entire floor was covered in merchandise. I mean, you couldn't even walk," said Lounds. 

Her store, Variety Printing and Gifts, was one of the hardest hit by severe flooding in downtown Kingsport. "How will we ever get it back like it was?" she asked.

That's what all of East Market Street is trying to do as nearly all businesses recover from torrential flooding. "I've got to go muck it out. I've had as you can see, you can look at the leather chairs. I had water come up 18 inches," said Kingsport store owner Suzanne Justis.

At Bear-N-Friends Toy Shop, a third of the inventory was lost and they don't expect sales anytime soon. Store employee Laura Jones told News 5, "We know we had a bathroom that did get backed up. There is still a smell going on and there is a lot of dirt. Until we can get it sanitized for children to come in, I don't know, at least a week," she said.

These businesses can blame around four inches of heavy rainfall in about 45 minutes, which nearly submerged all of downtown Kingsport.

City Manager John Campbell says flooding like this in downtown is exceedingly rare, if not unheard of. "Our downtown infrastructure had always been very strong in supporting this kind of thing. It was just so quick, it couldn't handle that before it got to the streams and got away," said Campbell.

What's done is done and now these flood victims are just thankful they have help from community volunteers to get them back on their feet.

Cathy Lounds told News 5, "I never imagined this many people would help. There are a lot of nice people in the world."

As to just how much damage happened in the city limits, City Manager Campbell says there are eight city employees currently working to assess all the damage.  They'll coordinate with Sullivan County and TEMA to see if any outside financial help is needed.

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