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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Vanderbilt University student in 1935 Predicted Nashville Flood

Some lifelong Nashvillians said the flood of 2010 was unprecedented and had never happened.

 Demetria Kalademos
But a Vanderbilt University student in 1935 was already predicting that a flood of this magnitude could occur.There are some interesting predictions that are located in books and papers that are available to anyone. However, few seem to be researching where they live, buy or build their home.Even in this age of e-mail, cell phones and satellites, the best flood warnings could be in old books and papers.Those who think 2010's flood was "the big one," Nashville historian Paul Clements said the public should start reading the city’s history."In 1779 there was one. In 1780, there was one. In 1781, there was another one, 1786, 1788, and the big one in 1793," said Clements.Four floods followed in the 1800s. The city offered those "rendered homeless and destitute" the sum of $500 each to rebuild.In 1926, Nashville residents were trading in their model Ts for boats in order to navigate flooded streets. That flood is all chronicled in a Vanderbilt student's 1935 engineering thesis."Samuel Weakley, who did careful, wonderful work, found that floods were very chronic. They were going to happen, and they happened with some frequency. Very big ones happen with some frequency, just like the 2010 one. He thought it went well beyond what we had seen," said Clements. "I don't have any idea if the (Army) Corps (of Engineers) or the planning commission read this info but they should."Investigators compiled a flood history book after the last great flood of 1975, when the current dams and reservoirs were in place.Much of the concern in 1975 was not about the Cumberland River, but the Harpeth and the new susceptibility of Bellevue."What seems clear to me is that that very few, if any of the people (affected in 2010), had any clue that there was a possibility. So, you had this fact the people had no idea this could happen, and yet information that it could happen has been readily available all along,” said Clements. "The question is: Why did that happen? Why were they so poorly informed? Is it their job to individually go out to archives and get these answers? Is it the developers’ job to go out and warn them prior to building a development? Is the planning commission or other land use divisions in government? Is it their job? Who's job is it? Somebody didn't do it. Some places didn't need to be developed and shouldn't be developed. Another generation shouldn't be herded into these same places at least without the knowledge that this could happen to you."Decades after his first flood predictions in the 1935, Weakley modified and increased his flooding predictions decades later."During every century, we may expect to experience several floods reading 55 feet on the gauge," said Weakley in his report.The Cumberland River in May 2010 reached just more than 51 feet. Weakley predicted the all-time maximum flood, he fears, would be at least 67.5 feet."Samuel Weakley would not have been surprised by this in any way, shape or form. He predicted it. It’s going happen again. It has and will again. What are we going to do about it?" said Clements.The public can look at some of those reports or research the past history of their property at the Metro archives, which is adjacent to the Green Hills Mall.

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