SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — At 11 p.m. CDT on July 10, a local landmark Chance Road residents have looked at all their lives was gone. "The bridge" is the only name it has ever been given, and it is five families' only means to cross a little brook that comes down from the Cumberland Plateau into Richard City, Tenn.
On the night of a devastating flash flood, that bridge was demolished by fast water and tree limbs.
"[Debris] all got caught on the backside of the bridge, and water started backing up until it finally broke loose," Kenneth Frame said last week.
He is the grandson of a West Virginia carpenter who settled in Richard City around the turn of the 20th century -- the same carpenter who poured the concrete foundations of the old bridge.
Chance Road falls under South Pittsburg's responsibility since it was annexed in 2009, but after the flooding of two weeks ago, city workers were covered up trying to salvage the town's historic downtown. That left the five stranded Richard City families out of luck, with just a single plank thrown across the stream as a means in and out on foot.
But their Marion County neighbors stepped in.
"It was just one government trying to help out another government," Neil Webb, Marion County superintendent of highways, said Friday.
He said South Pittsburg City Administrator Sammy Burrows got on the phone and called for assistance getting the bridge back in business.
Before the week was out, county workers were assessing the situation and searching for a fix. Webb said leaving the Chance Road families stranded was out of the question. South Pittsburg Mayor Jane Dawkins said the county jumped on the opportunity to help.
"They got right on it," she said.
But even with manpower, Webb said the beams needed to span the creek were unavailable and looked to be a hurdle to the whole project.
But again, Richard City's neighbors came through for the Chance Road families.
Mike Cardin, owner of Cardin Wood Products in nearby Kimball, donated "13 or 14" white oak beams to the project, Webb said.
"He's really the savior of the whole thing," Webb said Friday. Although Marion County largely has gotten away from installing wooden bridges, Cardin's donation should make for a good medium-term solution, Webb added.
"[The oak] is very sturdy," he said. "It will probably last many years to come. That'll be a good fix for them."
Going the metal-and-concrete-construction route would have been around $5,000 more expensive and the families still would be waiting for construction to begin, he said. But last Tuesday, with Cardin and Marion County's help, the Chance Road families had a new bridge, maybe even a better one, Frame said.
"It looks like it's a little bit stronger than before," he said.
Contact staff writer Alex Green at 423-757-6731 or firstname.lastname@example.org.