Put Away The Umbrella

Put Away The Umbrella

Post was begun in February 2019.

The rain has finally stopped here in Nashville. It has been the wettest February on record for Tennessee, and here in Nashville with the 2010 flooding still so fresh for folks who lived here, it has been an interesting study in group/community anxiety.

The fantastic news for us is that all the water abatement work stood us in good stead. The inside of our home stayed completely dry and the Porsches of sump pumps handled all the water with no trouble.

(For those who may not remember, we did new gutters, had our chimney recovered, and installed an entire system in our basement which is powered by a main sump pump, a secondary sump pump, and a battery back up if the electricity goes out.)

We are also blessed in that there is a rain gauge at the Harpeth River right down the road from us, which gives us real-time updates on the river level.

In an effort to control my anxiety around the river level as the rain kept rolling down, I gathered data and turned this rain into a science experiment.

We learned a great deal with those February days of rain.

We learned that in the great flood of 2010, the Harpeth River rose to 38 feet.

My friend Lou, who lives up behind us in the neighborhood, shared her pictures of the 2010 flood with me. Her house did not flood, but the house we live in flooded to within a few inches of the first floor.

The back of our house:

Looking down the road next to our house toward Highway 100. Our house is on the right. The two windows showing are our master bedroom and kids’ bathroom window.

Several friends have mentioned how eery it was that the electricity never went off, which was great, but to see the lights in that house at the end of the road, in the left of the picture above, still lit, under the water, was very strange.

The picture above is not at the crest of the flood. The water eventually reached the bottom of their roof edge.

That would have been when the rain gauge down the road was at 38 feet. So Buds and I spent a fair amount of time trying to deduce at what river height the water would be lapping at our garage doors.

As part of my science project I kept taking pictures of the river in people’s backyards across the street from us, while tracking the rain gauge.

The river crest projections had been 20-21 feet. Then some water had to be released from an up river dam, which raised the projection to 22 feet. ( The person who has the responsibility around deciding when and how much water to release from one dam for the safety of some, knowing it will impact others, while trying to juggle safety for all, has my tremendous respect.)

Editor’s Note: I’m writing the last part of this post on March 25, so several weeks since the intense stress of that rainy weekend in February. Because life has moved on and we have many more wonderful things to talk about, here are the take-aways from the rain data and my conversation with our sump pump tech.

1) I tracked of a lot of pieces of information. Here’s a screen shot of part of the data I was tracking.

We were watching the river gauge here.

For reference, this gauge is about a mile from our house, under the green bridge.

We were watching the rain forecast using our “Dark Skies” app. on our phones, which gives us micro-climate data.

I was taking pictures of our neighbors’ yards to compare the visible water level with the level of the river gauge.

The houses on the other side of the highway have the Harpeth River behind them, which is generally not visible.

Until it is.

This was at 17’ish feet on the gauge down at the river. The brown all around their trampoline in the middle of the picture is river water.

Here is that same neighbor today, and what the yard usually looks like. Green grass and a happy trampoline.

Here are my loves going out to investigate during a break in the rain in February.

Buds and I were guesstimating how high the water could get at the river gauge before we would be fighting to keep our garage dry.

If the water hasn’t risen over the road, which it certainly did in 2010 when it got to 38 feet, we feel pretty sure that 28 – 30 feet on the river gauge will have our driveway under water, but we can keep it out of the garage.

We’ve invested in water dams that would buy us an extra 6-12 inches, which makes a big difference for me mentally.

Essentially I want to be this family:

I remember photos like that from the St. Louis flood of 1993. Buds and I were both living there during the flood, but weren’t impacted by it personally.

We have flood insurance, and we’ve done everything we can for this house. And talking with our sump pump fellow reassured me about our efforts, too.

2) We have a main sump pump and a back up sump pump, and a boat battery that can power those sump pumps for a long time if the electricity gets turned off. (Is it painfully obvious how much comfort I take in this set of sump pumps?!) I learned a few neat things about them.

I wondered did I need to have a plan for keeping water out of the opening where the sump pump ejects the water?

Nope, turns out I don’t. The way our sump pump ejects and the power it has, that outlet could be under feet of water and it would still keep working. Those sump pumps can each pump 4400 gallons of water per hour and they can shoot that water 28 feet in the air.

I don’t ever want to need either of those “features,” but it makes me sleep better at night to know it.

3) We learned about the behavior of “our river.” Once the Harpeth has left its banks, it is much tougher for it to rise another foot because of how spread out it becomes quickly. We are blessed to have lots of open field right near the river in our area.

Here’s what that field looked like a few days after the 20 foot crest. (The data ended up showing the river actually crested at about 17.5 feet. Data. I love that data.)

We were also interested to learn about how quickly the river can drop once it stops raining. And we had infinite respect for the forecasters. They are really, really good.

Going up:

Going down:

4) Final, most important take-away:

I could happily walk away from every single item in this house as long as my people and pets were safe.

We’ve done what we can to care for these things, and I’m really glad Nephew J has a boat if we’d ever get into dire straights and needed a pick-up, but the river doesn’t scare me nearly as much any more. It still has my full respect, but I’m not scared.

It was a really big storm, in case you didn’t catch that point in my “Rain, Rain” post.: