Flood of 1913 built support for levee

Chronicle file
A century ago, downtown Augusta streets saw water during a mid-March flood
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The mid-March flood that surged through Augusta in 1913 wasn’t the deadliest or most devastating, but it was one of the most significant.

The city was finally recovering from a severe flood in 1912 that rekindled painful memories of the catastrophic surge in 1908 that toppled bridges, pushed buildings from their foundations and left 18 dead.

So many floods so close together was not unprecedented for a city whose next-door neighbor was the unpredictable Savannah River, which had overflowed into the city dozens of times from the 1700s to the early 1900s.

If the 1908 and 1912 floods helped accelerate interest among city officials to protect the city, the 1913 deluge helped prove it was possible to do so.

According to the March 17, 1913, Augusta Chronicle, the 1913 event “wasn’t much of a freshet at all” and the city “just got her toes wet.”

Some attributed the lack of damage to recent engineering improvements at Beaver Dam Ditch, which was widened and deepened as part of an effort to move floodwaters away from the city more efficiently.

More importantly, according to a 2006 paper at Augusta State University’s Reese Library, the lack of damage in 1913 promoted efforts to create a levee.

The levee gave Augustans a new sense of security, and it repelled its first flood soon after its completion in 1919. Similar surges flowed harmlessly past the city in 1921 and in spring 1929.

However, on Sept. 20, 1929 – just weeks before the stock market crash that fueled the Great Depression – the levee was topped in several locations. More than 100 city blocks were
flooded as the river surged to an estimated 38 times its average flow.

The city initiated steps in 1930 to enlarge and strengthen the levee. The project was completed in 1940.

Soon afterwards, the completion of Thurmond Dam upstream offered further protection, and the levee was viewed by some as obsolete.

The 12-mile earthen structure remains intact and operable as a means to protect Augusta against floods – even with breaches that were cut in the 1980s to allow construction of the Riverwalk.

Large wooden beams, or “stop-gaps,” are stored near each levee breach and can be hoisted into place if rising water threatens the city.

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nocnoc 03/18/13 - 07:11 am
Something to think about

Despite Clark Hill Dam being fully operation and having a levee.
Augusta has had floods in
1964,70,71,75,84,87,90 92, and 1994

While Clark Hill may control the height of the River.
Mother-nature has seen fit to repeatedly show Augusta that being in a Valley that water rolls down hill and Augusta is a collection point.

...point to ponder
...point to ponder 03/18/13 - 07:35 am
Levee breach

When does the city run drills to see if they can put the beams in place within a reasonable time?

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 03/18/13 - 08:54 am
Levee Drills

Excellent question, PTP. Our city’s highest person in the executive department has a nickname — What, me worry? To conduct drills forcing city employees under his command to see whether they can put the levee stoplogs in place within a reasonable time is just too much bother for him. He doesn’t worry about it, so why should we?

Now, if Pam Tucker were our city administrator, there would be regularly-scheduled drills, publicized in the media; and she would take corrective actions to improve all deficiencies.

She worries, so we don’t have to.

itsanotherday1 03/18/13 - 08:54 am
Tear it down, it just makes a

Tear it down, it just makes a bowl of downtown. Three dams have been put on the Savannah River since the levee was built; she ain't gonna flood downtown.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 03/18/13 - 09:19 am

We learned from Tonya Bonitatibus, the Savannah Riverkeeper, that many storm sewers downtown are designed to drain under the levee into the Savannah River. The thing that puzzles me is the notion that drains work both ways. If they can drain rainwater into the river in non-flood conditions, then what prevents them from flowing backward during flood conditions? It seems we would flood through the storm drains, levee or no levee.

Still, the levee is an attractive formation, and the lovely plantings, rocks, sculptures, etc. on the river side of the levee make it a feature we should preserve as an amenity.

GnipGnop 03/18/13 - 09:48 am
It has been proven

Levees only force the flooding farther downstream. You cannot stop stop mother nature!

Fishboy 03/18/13 - 10:16 am

LL, the city does conduct drills for practice at placing the stop gap logs, and the drains to the river have flap gates that keep river water from flowing in.

jrbfromga 03/18/13 - 10:29 am
nocnoc is right...

remove the levee and have floods again...as for GripGnop, what is downriver that can't survive a flood? Savannah?

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