Flood Stage

Yesterday, there was a warning about flooding in Whites Creek Pike in the Bordeaux area, along Hamilton Road, where that dude who had been fighting to get the city or the state to do something about flooding was killed during the 2010 flood.

Here’s the part that stood out to me. The warning said that water would be in people’s back yards at 13.0 feet and that the river was now at 13.8 feet. Okay fine. Then it said that the creek is not considered to be in flood stage until 18 feet.

There are only two possibilities I see here–either that was some kind of massive typo or people on the creek side of Hamilton Road have a LOT of yard that’s actually creek bed. There would appear to be a five foot discrepancy between where the people along Whites Creek believe the creekbed is and where the National Weather Service believes the creekbed is. Otherwise, how can you have the creek in people’s back yards five feet before it’s flooding?

The thing about Whites Creek is that it has a pretty wide flood plain. Like, if you’re crossing White’s Creek on Clarksville Pike, if you look toward the florist, you can see that the florist simply must be in the flood plain. And Hamilton Road is just a foot or two above the florist. I think, if you were being honest, you’d say that the creek should get the whole 300 yards or so from the hills on the far side of the creek to Hamilton Road on the nearside. That should all be “Whites Creek” even if the creek itself is now just a couple hundred feet across, hugging close to the high ground to the south.

So, if it is anywhere in that 300 yard across area, I don’t think you can rightly say that it’s flooding. It is still in the area that is obviously the creek’s. People should have NEVER been sold property there. Because, also, obviously, if the creek is normally in its banks and you’ve gotten used to thinking of its flood plain as “your yard,” you are going to be alarmed to discover that the creek is in your yard.

But even after 2010, even after we saw people whose houses had flooded, whose belongings were all out in their yards, a lot of those houses are still lived in.

That bugs me, but I don’t know what can be done about it.

4 thoughts on “Flood Stage

  1. No typo. Flood stage on that stream gage is 18 ft. It’s a bit of a mystery how the US Geological Survey (in charge of the stream gages) determines ‘flood stage’ and no one entirely understands it. I don’t think anyone pays a lot of attention to it other than flood forecasters and media. Suffice to say, most people think of flooding as when the creek gets out of it’s distinct channel, but the USGS makes it a bit more complicated. If you look at the gage’s page on the USGS website, they classify 13 ft as ‘Action Stage’ which means something to the effect of ‘it’s getting close, you better keep an eye on ti’ and 18 ft as ‘flood stage’. Here’s the page for your White’s Creek gage near Bordeaux.


    I’ve seen a lot from Metro about the buyouts and how they decided who got them. They had this complex decision matrix based on how badly houses were damaged and how old they were. I got the impression most of the available funding went to Richland Creek over around Briley/White Bridge Road. There was some serious destruction over there back in 2010.

  2. That area definitely needed it, but I have to say, I think we’re going to see problems in the future related to this. I KNOW the houses on Hamilton took on a lot of water and I didn’t see drywall in every yard when it was over, you know? And the same for the areas around Richland Creek. If your home was decimated, they’ve done a good job of getting you put somewhere else.

    But not everyone who needed to do some basic mold removal did. And I don’t know if it’s because they didn’t have the money for it or couldn’t go through the process for whatever reason. But that seems like it’s going to be an ongoing nightmare.

  3. That section of West Hamilton was a buyout area-in some cases the offer was made to folks on the other side of the road, even. A lot of folks there took it, but plenty along that stretch opted to move back in, too. There’s a strong current of opinion there that they wouldn’t have flooded so badly had the dams been properly managed, and many of those back yards are crazy long. But, as you say, the houses aren’t on very high ground. They were built just before codes banned erecting houses on that low of ground so close to water. And sometimes the floods there are scary bad.

  4. Are there even dams on Whites Creek? Or are they saying that mismanagement of the dams on the Cumberland made their situation worse? I would give some credence to that because we knew when Whites Creek came out of its banks because the water in our yard went down by a good foot, even though it was still raining. Just suddenly, the water had a place to go. Sorry, downstream neighbors.

    The whole situation is just so terrible. And it doesn’t help matters that the creek takes a sharp right turn–it comes down White’s Creek Pike and then turns just south of Hamilton. So, of course, when it floods, it’s going to flood in the crook of the elbow, not outside. It’s just too bad that there are homes there.

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