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50th Anniversary of the St Patrick’s Day flooding in Chattanooga

  ACTIVE WEATHER TO BEGIN 1973 From NewsChannel 9: The first few months of 1973 were eventful weather wise in Chattanooga, From Janua



From NewsChannel 9: The first few months of 1973 were eventful weather wise in Chattanooga, From January 6-8, 1973, an ice storm brought down trees and power lines all across our viewing area. This was followed by 5 straight mornings with temperatures in the low/mid 10s. February of 1973 was very cold locally with the average monthly temperature over 8 degrees below average. But, in March of 1973, it was the rain that made the headlines.




The month of March started off wet with over 1.25″ from March 2-4, 1973. Overall, that is not too heavy. But, just over a week later from March 9-11, 1973, around 2.80″ of rain was received at Lovell Field. This soggy start to the month saturated the ground and area creek levels were rising. This set the stage for one of the worst floods in Chattanooga’s history. It is worth noting that Chattanooga was notorious for having massive river flooding spread through downtown in the 1800’s and early 1900’s before TVA dam control. The 1973 flood did not have a lot of downtown flooding, but local creeks that feed into the river (Chattanooga Creek & Chickamauga Creek) played a huge role.




Heavy rainfall occurred from March 15-17, 1973. The already saturated ground and swollen creek levels simply could not handle the excessive runoff. A whopping rainfall total of 7.50″ fell during that 3 day stretch. Archive pictures from the Paul A. Hiener Collection at Chattanooga Library show the extent of the flooding especially in east Chattanooga (23rd street & Rossville Blvd) and Brainerd. In Brainerd, Eastgate Mall and the Brainerd Village shopping center were underwater. I remember my parents driving us over to that area and the parking lot of Eastgate resembled a lake.


The extent of this flooding led to the construction of the Brainerd levee in the 1980s. This has helped prevent a repeat of the 1973 flooding. Overall, March of 1973 had a monthly rainfall total of 13.80″ in Chattanooga. Just a few years later in March of 1980, Chattanooga received 16.32″ and remains the record holder.


Another personal memory of that flooding. I grew up in Chickamauga, GA and we lived at the top of a hill. At the bottom of that hill flood waters covered the road, but my Dad’s truck had enough clearance to safely pass through. My sister’s birthday is on March 18th (Happy Birthday Angela!). Her birthday party in 1973 had to be postponed because we didn’t want anyone to have to drive through the flood waters.


(Photos in this article are from the Paul A Heiner Collection at the Chattanooga Library)