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Flood Perspective

The weekend floods in Tennessee and Kentucky proved both deadly and costly. Tony has an idea why they happened.

Weekend Rain Commentary

The Derby Day weekend rains seemed of biblical proportions to many folks living in Tennessee and Kentucky as a rare 10 inch rainfall swamped parts of the Volunteer and Bluegrass States. Indeed, in the absence of a tropical storm, it is hard to fathom a storm of this proportion occurring again for a long time.

Rain gauges overflowed from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville to Beale Street in Memphis and from Southern Kentucky all the way to Cave Run Lake in Rowan County. Accumulations in this zone averaged 6 to 8 inches with local 10 inch reports common. Reports of 10-15 inch rainfalls are likely highly localized.

In our region, the Tygart Creek thru Olive Hill rose to its highest level since I have been at WSAZ-TV (22 years). The entire buisness district is in a shambles.

In classifying the event in the hardest hit areas, I liken this to at a minimum a one in one hundred if not one in 500 year flood. After all, if you were a city controller in Nashville or Memphis, chances are you would lay your city out above the 100 year flood plain. You would inspect historical flows and water levels on the Mississippi and Cumberland Rivers respectively for a century or more and then build your business and commerce higher than where the water been in the past. Right?

Well pictures from Nashville are absolutely mind-boggling. I can’t recall a big city with that much water downtown, not even St Louis in 1993.

But events like this are becoming far too common. Think of it, in recent years, record flooding close by to our region occurred in Northern Ohio in 2007(where in Findlay Ohio the Blanchard River rose to its highest crest since 1913), Louisville in August 2009, the Tug Fork and Gilbert Creek of Mingo and Logan Counties WV in 2009. The list goes on and on.

In the 1990s, the 1993 Mississippi River flood and the Ohio Valley flood of 1997 (one of only 2 times the flood walls have been shut in Huntington in my 22 years here) jump out in my mind.

Now while floods have been a mainstay in our country since the Industrial Revolution (and even the Civil War years, witness Gettysburg in 1863), it appears to me that floods have become more common and harder than in prior decades. Some might call this statement as “anecdotal”. Can’t say I totally disagree.

But I have no doubt in my mind that these flash flood events have stepped up their occurrence since the Global Warming issue has been raised. In fact, on a globally warmed planet, there should be more floods since warmer air can hold more water vapor and the more water vapor, the better the opportunity for heavy rains.

Coincidence? The global warming naysayers will have you believe so. The finest scientists in my field, of which I am not one, are in stark agreement that severe weather events will be harsher and more frequent on a greenhoused warmed planet.

So just say a prayer for those affected by the high water and if you live in a flood prone area double check your insurance policy and consider moving to higher ground because who knows where the next really serious flood will occur?

I am enclosing a picture of Morehead Kentucky from Sunday evening when the city was engulfed with water from the Licking River and Triplett Creek. Special thanks to Todd Salmons for this digital marvel!
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