Five days ago marked the 92nd anniversary of the historic March 1929 flood that caused catastrophic damage in Scott County.
On Sunday, local rivers reached their highest levels since that 1929 flood, after numerous thunderstorms dumped as much as eight inches of rain over portions of Scott and Morgan counties in a 24-hour period.
The Big South Fork River reached a peak streamflow of 81,300 cubic feet per second (cfs) at 9:15 a.m. Sunday morning, as measured by the U.S. Geological Survey at Leatherwood Ford. That marked the highest recorded streamflow since the USGS gauge was installed in 1985. The previous high occurred just a year ago, when the BSF reached 74,200 cfs on Feb. 6, 2020.
The actual streamflow Sunday morning was even higher than that, however. The USGS gauge stopped reading at 9:45 a.m., and didn’t produce another reading until 2:45 p.m. Sunday afternoon, when the river was a still-roaring 81,200 cfs. In the meantime, the river depth rose from 41.71 feet to 42.5 feet when the river crested at 11:15 a.m.
Given the river’s measurements, it was likely roaring at about 83,000 cfs when it crested at 42.5 feet late in the morning.
The 42.5 feet crest was the highest since the USGS began monitoring at Leatherwood Ford in 1985, beating last February’s crest of over 39 feet.
While the Big South Fork’s data only goes back 36 years, readings from the Clear Fork River’s gauge at Burnt Mill Bridge provided a better historical picture of this weekend’s flood.
There, where the historic bridge was washed away by the flood waters, the river crested at 20.61 feet at 11 a.m. It was the second-highest crest on record at Burnt Mill, trailing only the March 23, 1929 flood, when the river crested at 22.1 feet. Since 1929, the highest crest had been in 1973, when the river crested at 18.92 feet.
At New River’s gauge at the U.S. 27 bridge south of Huntsville, the crest was 32.06 feet at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. That was the fifth-highest crest on record, trailing 41.2 feet in 1929, 37.9 feet in 1973, 33.58 feet in 1939 and 33 feet in 1903.