Where were you during the flood of ’19?

Wendy SmithFarragut, The Farragut Insider

Farragut residents are bound to ask each other that question in the coming years. Over five inches of rain fell on already-sodden ground on Saturday, Feb. 23, resulting in drama and social-media opportunities throughout the town.

Farragut Public Works Director Bud McKelvey received his first call about flooding at 8 a.m. on Saturday. After Knox County Sheriff’s Office called to report flooding at Newport Road, he enlisted five members of his staff to load trucks with barrels, barricades and “high water” signs. Then they hit the road.

“I’ve been through this before. With that much rain, I knew where we were headed. We just kept going.”

This was the second-worst flooding he’s seen. Another flood in the late ’90s was worse, he says, so he knew where the problem areas would be. After Newport Road flooded, it was only a matter of time before the water moved down Turkey Creek and caused problems at the Kingston Pike/Concord Road intersection. Ultimately, Bud and his crew blocked off portions of Outlet Drive, Campbell Station Road, Virtue Road and Everett Road, along with Newport Road, Kingston Pike, Concord Road and West End Avenue.

One of the more dramatic sights of the day was a taxicab that became stranded just south of I-40 on Campbell Station Road. Rural/Metro helped passengers to safety before the water was dangerously deep, but as the day went on, water nearly swallowed the vehicle.

Bud was amazed at the crowd that gathered near the Cracker Barrel parking lot to take photos of the sunken cab.

“We called it our depth meter,” he says.

The public works department doesn’t touch stranded vehicles, but staff backed up a pickup truck to allow the driver of a car stuck on Kingston Pike to climb onto the tailgate. Other drivers prompted less sympathy.

“What still amazes me is drivers that go around barricades into floodwaters and ask us to stop everything and help them after they stall out,” says McKelvey.

The other big attraction was Founders Park, where the North Fork of Turkey Creek became raging whitewater. A crowd gathered at the park as the creek churned over the tops of bridges.

Around 2 p.m., Bud received a call from Knox County about the collapse of Everett Road. There was significant damage to the Knox County section of the road, but no drivers were involved.

“Nobody was there. They were all looking at the taxicab,” he says.

Maple Tree Drive in Sedgefield subdivision was the only Farragut road damaged by flooding. It failed after an underground pipe collapsed.

By 1 p.m. on Sunday, all roads within Farragut were opened. Public Works spent last week cleaning catch basins and pipe inlets.

Our thoughts are with the homeowners and business owners who are still dealing with water damage. We sincerely appreciate the municipal workers and public-safety officials who kept us safe during the flood of ’19. Thank you.

Wendy Smith coordinates marketing and public relations for the town of Farragut.

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