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Blog

Carolina “Great Flood” Symposium

leah kirk

A century ago, Western North Carolina experienced possibly the worst natural disaster the region has ever seen.  July 15, 1916 was a day of extraordinary rain; one location along the Blue Ridge Parkway received 22 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. The mountains, historically a protector against weather extremes, prevented headwaters from spreading out to be absorbed into the high forests.  A dozen regional rivers raged down their channels, over their banks, and ravaged downstream communities.  The French Broad and the Swannanoa, swollen to unheard-of heights, devastated Hendersonville, Asheville, Biltmore, Marshall and many other communities lying in their watersheds.

What was the Great Flood of 1916 like, and what were its short-term and long-term impacts on Asheville and the surrounding area?  What lessons in emergency management did we learn in the hundred years between 1916 and 2016?  And are we prepared for the next floods that are sure to visit the French Broad River?

The symposium at Ferguson Auditorium on the AB Tech campus as we explore answers to these questions.  Several local organizations - Buncombe County Emergency Management, the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, RiverLink, Duke Power, the Western North Carolina Historical Association, the United States Geological Survey and the Wilma Dykeman Legacy - have come together to produce two days of innovative programming that promise to be both entertaining and informative.  The 2-day symposium is free to the public, so mark your calendars!  Attendees can purchase a copy of "So Great the Devastation," a 48-page heavily illustrated 4-color booklet about the Great Flood.