David Melson

Picturing the Past 89: Floodgate rises

Posted Tuesday, November 30, 2010, at 11:34 AM
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  • There is a T.G. article on March 16 1973 that shows the high water mark with the gate raised. Garland King, Aaron Sullivan and Doug Williams spent the night watching the flood waters rise and marked the high water line. The gate was raised four times a year to clean dirt and debris out from road traffic.My brother thinks it has only been raised two times since 1968 for flooding.

    -- Posted by Cal t on Tue, Nov 30, 2010, at 5:32 PM
  • Cal t, based on the chart below (which for some reason omits the 1902 flood) I think your brother is right about the flood gate being raised only a couple of times because of high water, although there might be a possibility of a third time, in 2003, as it seems that I recall seeing it up around that time, with the water just lapping at the bottom of the gate. Not sure though, too much water has gone under the bridge since then to remember accurately. Shelbyville got hammered with two floods in 1948, January was a left jab then February was a smashing right hand.

    Historical Crests for Duck River near Shelbyville

    (1) 42.00 ft on 03/29/1926

    (2) 39.60 ft on 03/24/1929

    (3) 38.40 ft on 02/13/1948

    (4) 35.88 ft on 03/13/1973

    (5) 34.84 ft on 03/22/1955

    (6) 33.88 ft on 12/31/1969

    (7) 33.46 ft on 05/07/2003

    (8) 32.80 ft on 01/11/1948

    (9) 29.94 ft on 01/24/2002

    (10) 29.88 ft on 12/23/1990

    (11) 27.83 ft on 03/28/1994

    (12) 26.40 ft on 01/23/1999

    (13) 26.40 ft on 12/01/1996

    (14) 26.12 ft on 03/18/2002

    (15) 26.07 ft on 02/06/2004

    (16) 25.98 ft on 12/03/1991

    (17) 25.41 ft on 03/06/1989

    (18) 25.04 ft on 01/08/1998

    (19) 24.86 ft on 06/26/2004

    (20) 24.53 ft on 01/04/1982

    (21) 24.05 ft on 01/23/2006

    (22) 22.30 ft on 02/15/2003

    (23) 22.21 ft on 12/01/2004

    (24) 21.95 ft on 11/28/1984

    (25) 21.60 ft on 04/04/2000

    (26) 20.40 ft on 03/20/2000

    (27) 20.40 ft on 05/09/1995

    (28) 18.20 ft on 04/01/2002

    (29) 18.10 ft on 12/17/2000

    (30) 12.14 ft on 05/10/2004

    -- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Tue, Nov 30, 2010, at 6:42 PM
  • Welcome back ilikeoldsongs. You have been missed. I will try to sit down tomorrow and collect my thoughts on this very signal advance in the history of flood control for Shelbyville.

    -- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Nov 30, 2010, at 8:44 PM
  • The train car seems to be modified to haul tall items since it has pockets for the gates to drop down into.I'm thinking the car stopped close behind the Fire Station and was carried by crane several hundred feet South to their present location.

    -- Posted by Cal t on Tue, Nov 30, 2010, at 10:15 PM
  • I agree with David that it appears as if the flood gate was delivered by rail. It looks as if it is on the track that runs paralell with West Jackson St. all the way to the old Royal Ball Park.

    I do not know who was responsible for the design of the flood gate, but I do know that Shelbyville has been spared a lot of misery since its installation. Whoever was responsible, I say, good job.

    -- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Dec 1, 2010, at 12:54 PM
  • You're right about the gate being raised in 2003. I shot multiple photos (along with a fascinated crowd that stayed well into the night) and what started as a small trickle did become "water lapping at the bottom of the gate."

    I wondered at the time how far and deep the water would have otherwise gone.

    Another question for those would remember: How close to the square did floodwaters rise before the floodgate? The Times-Gazette has no bound copies of The Bedford County Times predating the mid-1920s. I was told years ago that they'd been destroyed in a flood. The Times was in the Gunter Building with its press in another small building behind it. Apparently water got into one or both buildings.

    -- Posted by David Melson on Wed, Dec 1, 2010, at 1:16 PM
  • David the highest I can ever remember the water getting in my lifetime was at the top of the railing on the bridge (1948) which would not have been very far up Bridge Street. My other point of reference would have been North Spring Street (jail hill). I can remember it being over half way up the street or at least getting close in the 50s because the National Guard was moving people out of their houses.

    -- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Dec 1, 2010, at 1:54 PM
  • I have been looking at the Shelbyville Times Gazette Sesqui- Centennial Historical Edition Oct. 7 1969 which gives the historic floods in Shelbyville. The 1902 flood was 737.4 feet at the dam,the 1929 was listed as 2nd worst at 735.2 feet and the 1948 was listed as 3rd at 734.6 feet. I did not see the 1926 flood mentioned in this story. Also the 1973 flood high water mark on the raised gate should give us an idea how far another foot of water would have gone toward the square. The high water mark on the gate in 1973 was at least 3 feet or more.

    -- Posted by Cal t on Wed, Dec 1, 2010, at 3:38 PM
  • There's a couple of interesting pictures of the 1948 flood at http://tnsos.org/tsla/imagesearch/index.php?find=shelbyville

    ...click on page 8, and scroll down to pics 24558, 59, and 64. I notice these were taken on 2/14--noted from ilikeoldsongs listing that the flood crested the day before these pics were made.

    -- Posted by dkd57 on Thu, Dec 2, 2010, at 10:28 AM
  • Thanks for the link dkd57. That really is a good pic and gives a much better idea about where the water level was.Also helps to clear the fog in my mind about what it looked like before urban renewal.

    -- Posted by Cal t on Thu, Dec 2, 2010, at 7:52 PM
  • I recall the 73 flood. I've been here all my life and I only remember the gates being raised for high water only a few times (maybe 3)with 2003 being the last time.

    -- Posted by Tim Lokey on Sat, Dec 4, 2010, at 8:40 PM
  • Sorry to be so late getting back to the party, but I guess it's true that it's better late than never. I would like to offer some information on the photograph (#24558) referenced above by dkd57. First, thanks dkd57, I had never seen that picture before and it sure brought back a lot of memories of things I thought I would never see again. Such as the intersection of West Lane and Atkinson St., the colored church on West Lane, and the house on top of the hill on West Jackson St.

    But the information that I want to share is for anyone who might have an interest in Simon Warner's exact location during the early 1940's on West Lane St.

    First, locate the church, which is almost dead center ,left to right, and in the upper 30% of this photo. Notice the line of bushes running along the side of the church, and continuing on the South side of the road. This is the drainage branch that I have mentioned in another post, and it ran between my house and Simon's house on the south side of the road. His house is the one next to the bushes on the West side of the branch, with a black roof and a strip of white showing on the side. My house is on the near, or town side of the branch, and in this photo is clearly one of the two mentioned in the 1969 T-G book as having been floated off their foundation. It should be about the same distance from the branch as Simon's house, and its roof line is following the contour of the sloping lot that it was built on.

    In today's scenario Simon's house would probably sit on the extreme East side of the old Cannon Cheverolet parking lot, while my house would be on the extreme West side of the animal control property. The old church would be located about where the old Charter cable office was, except that it would be farther south, probably blocking the North lanes of Lane Parkway, and extending all the way to the medium would be my guess, because it had very shallow frontage.

    Now a couple of questions if I may. In this photo I get the impression that West Jackson St. was not paved yet, and in the back of my mushy memory I seem to recall that Atkinson St., starting at West Lane, had a rock wall along the western boundry, similar to the one on East Lane around the Cooper property, but in this photo I can't be certain if I'm looking at a rock wall, a sidewalk or both. Any help?

    David, you mentioned that you had wondered back in 2003 about what would have happened if the flood gate had not been up during the highest portion of the flood. On the surface that seems like a relatively simple question, but upon thinking about it there are several situations that could evolve which make a simple answer a risky proposition. For instance, are the pumps working, how much extra capacity, if any, do the pumps have for unexpected situations such as a hundred year flood event? Has the storm system thats responsible for the flooding moved out already, as most do pretty quickly? If the answers to these questions are all positive then I dont see a great deal of concern about a foot or so of water coming through an opening the width of the floodgate since it is coming off the top of the river and will be going down to a no flow situation in usually six to eight hours. If the pumps have the capacity that they should have, they could pump that much water downstream and twiddle their thumbs at the same time. But the question has caused me to examine in my mind the whole levee system, and a visual, but casual inspection, while driving by, failed to reveal any sort of manually operated relief system along the length of the levee, so I guess that no true fail safe plan exists. In the absence of such a plan it is not hard to envision a perfect storm situation that would make the 1948 flood look like a bath drawn for a two year old. But I've lived in blissful ignorance all these years since it was built, and I'm not going to start to worry about it now.

    -- Posted by ilikeoldsongs on Thu, Feb 3, 2011, at 6:16 PM
  • A couple of thoughts to go along with ilikeoldsongs' comment, above...my grandparents lived for many years (til urban renewal moved them) in the house at SW corner of West Lane and Atkinson St (a two-story prominently shown in the picture). You are correct that there was a rock wall along both streets...north for some distance on Atkinson, and west for a ways on West Lane--beginning at the NW corner of the two streets. My fading memory says the rocks were of substantial size, and could possibly have been similar to those along East Lane.

    I also recall that the water at crest on 2/13 was at least 3-4 feet higher than is shown in the 2/14 picture. It crested just below ground-floor level at their house, and the picture shows water only in a part of the front yard.

    And a "Spot-on" to your location of Simon Warner's property...and I'll happily join you in the 'blissful ignorance' category, re your last paragraph. Enjoyed your comments!

    -- Posted by dkd57 on Wed, Feb 9, 2011, at 12:09 AM
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