Monday, April 26, 2010

Floods of Downtown Hopkinsville

High waters on the North Fork

These concrete lily pads provide a dry passage across Little River's North Fork. They are located just below the library in Hopkinsville, KY, near the intersection of Ninth and Bethel streets.

When my kids were little, they loved to leap from one circle to the next at this river crossing. I think one of them fell in the river once, but I don't remember if it was Keely or Isaac. Or maybe I just remember that I thought they were going to fall in. I'm really not sure.

Fortunately, the North Fork isn't very deep here, except when rainfall has been heavy. When the stream is high, the stepping stones and the walk approaches are covered by flood waters. Sections of the river walk may be inundated as well.

Before the watershed lakes were built on tributaries north of Hopkinsville, the North Fork (sometimes called the West Fork) came out of its banks whenever heavy rains fell.  When flood waters filled downtown Hopkinsville, water sometimes stood on Ninth Street as far east as the area of the old post office (the current Pennyrile Area Museum.)

In the big downtown flood of 1957, five feet of water stood at the intersection of Ninth and Main.Troops from Fort Campbell and National Guardsmen helped get people out of low-lying areas. Christian County suffered so much flood damage that President Eisenhower declared it a disaster area.

In a column about major Hopkinsville floods  ("Watching the Parade", Kentucky New Era, January 23, 1984), Joe Dorris wrote that the January 1937 flood was the worst one of the 20th century. Over 20 inches of rain fell in Christian County that month, creating recurrent flood conditions in Hopkinsville. Schools were closed and a typhoid epidemic was feared

High waters were not limited to Hopkinsville. Heavy rainfall across several states caused widespread flooding in the greater Ohio River valley and on down the Mississippi River.  Hopkinsville provided emergency shelter to flood victims from other cities, including Paducah and Louisville, and sent emergency supplies to the hard-hit towns of  Eddyville and Glasgow. I am impressed that Hopkinsville's citizens assisted other communities, even while coping with their own disaster.

Photos of the 1937 flooding in Louisville, KY can be seen at the website of the National Weather Service at Louisville.


Collagemama said...

My guys fell into an assortment of creeks and duck ponds, but not nearly as often as I dreamt they did back in the Eighties. Now my youngest is in grad school, but I'm still having the dreams about boys floating away.

John Ruberry said...

More flooding after Saturday's rain?

Genevieve said...

I'm sure the concrete lilypads are covered with at least ten feet of water at the moment.

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