Despite the best efforts of humans, Mother Nature will have her way.
Living among peaks and ridges, Northeast Tennessee residents know all too well how rough weather can quickly turn into unexpected dangers. Though we may not have hurricanes to contend with, flooding always has been a fact of life in these parts.
The residents of the Old Mountaineer on South Roan Street found out the hard way Saturday night. A storm-driven mudslide from the ridge behind the former market and apartment building forced them to evacuate. The building soon was shifted from its foundation and collapsed. Thankfully, residents made it out without significant injury, but all were displaced.
That same night, Staff Writer Jonathan Roberts documented some of the flash flooding in the region caused by the heavy downpours, mainly in the downtown Johnson City area. Already-swollen Brush and King creeks were overwhelmed with water, rendering several streets in the area impassable.
That’s nothing new. Anyone who’s lived here long enough knows that a mountain valley town built over and around numerous creeks is bound to flood. Photos from Saturday night are eerily similar to those from more than 100 years ago. Also, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s lakes we enjoy were created in part to control the deadly flood-prone rivers and streams in this region. It’s an age-old war.
We do not envy the task of city’s public works officials.
In the last decade, Johnson City has made significant progress toward mitigating the flooding. The Founders Park and King Commons projects, along with storm drain capacity improvements and the giant detention pond at West Market and Boone streets, have made a big impact on downtown’s stability. We know businesses and residents are grateful for the massive undertaking afforded by the city’s stormwater fees.
Back in December, the City Commission again increased the stormwater fee to accommodate more flood mitigation projects, specifically to improve drainage on West Walnut Street, to prevent Cobb Creek from flooding Oakland Avenue and to handle flooding along Knob Creek Road.
Based on Saturday’s results, there’s still much work to be done downtown, as well. The sheer volume of water alone was enough to task the storm sewers, but debris appeared to quickly clog drains and culverts, especially along West Market and Montgomery streets and along West Watauga Avenue near Carver Park. Preventing those clogs would seem to be a priority. King Creek’s bed west of downtown and Brush Creek’s path along State of Franklin Road also must be addressed.
Downtown may never be totally flood free, but we commend city staff members for their efforts to date and for staying in the fight.