Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Mother Nature likes Louisville in the water

What is it with Louisville that Mother Nature hates so much?!?

Three times in one year. Wind Storm. Ice Storm. Flash Flood.

A record amount of rainfall was dumped on Louisville on Tuesday.
A massive storm that forecasters had predicted would largely bypass Louisville instead dumped a record 6.5 inches of rain Tuesday morning, spawning flash flooding that filled streets, stranded motorists and knocked out electricity to thousands.

No deaths or serious injuries were reported, but emergency workers rescued nearly 200 people from the tops of cars and houses as water rose too fast for them to escape.

A second storm Tuesday afternoon dropped another inch of rain, causing more flooding.
“We just had entirely too much rain in too short a time,” said Bud Schardein, executive director of Louisville's Metropolitan Sewer District. “The system has just been overwhelmed.”

Floodwaters poured into homes and basements and engulfed Louisville's main public library, several area hospitals, horse barns at Churchill Downs and the University of Louisville campus, where some workers had to be rescued by boat.

And the problems may not be over, with more rain in the forecast.

“Any additional rain that's going to fall will add to the flash flooding,” Schardein said.[...]

About 20,000 LG&E customers lost power. Extra crews were brought in to deal with the outages, but officials said they might not get all power restored until Wednesday.

Thousands of books were destroyed by flooding at the Main Library downtown at Third and York streets, with preliminary damage estimated at $1million, Abramson said.

Ten kittens and a dog at the Metro Animal Services shelter on Manslick Road drowned when the building flooded. Officials evacuated 500 animals to the Kentucky Exposition Center.

A Northwest Airlink flight to Detroit from Knoxville, Tenn., had to land at Louisville International Airport about 6 p.m. Tuesday after a flight attendant and one passenger were injured by turbulence from a lingering storm system.

Abramson said that emergency officials responded quickly, and he took weather forecasters to task for indicating the storm would be less severe than it was.
“We've had the worst rainstorm ever in this community in a one-hour period,” Abramson said.

He added that the city probably will ask the state to seek federal disaster designation — which would make the city eligible for federal aid, including low-interest loans for homeowners to repair storm damage.

“I think you're going to see a lot of basements flooded,” Schardein said.

Gov. Steve Beshear pledged to provide “any and all assistance requested” to Louisville.

More rain is expected Wednesday but “hopefully, nothing like we went through,” said Mike Callahan with the National Weather Service in Louisville.[...]
It could have been much worse had MSD not made the upgrades that it did make after the flood of 1997.

The Derby Museum took a beating after it underwent a renovation.
Wendy Treinen, the director of communications, said the museum will be closed until at least Sunday, although tours of Churchill Downs and the backside will continue out of the track's Gate 1. She said there is no way yet to tell the extent of the damage to its historical collections, including books and research papers.

"We have a major mess on our hands," she said. "The sewer problem on the main floor through all the exhibit space, it's going to be a real problem for us and it's going to take some time."

Museum executive director Lynn Ashton and chief operating officer Sherry Crose said 30 people stood in water well over their ankles to form a human chain to get the historical collections to a higher floor or onto tables or higher shelves. The work was made harder after the elevator went out as the building lost power. Work continued until the light from the back-up generator ran out of power, they said.
Ashton said the basement had just undergone a $200,000 renovation and new shelving. She said boxes of merchandise for the gift shop were damaged, but the emphasis was on saving the irreplaceable.

"Everything on the floor level we were able to save," Ashton said late Tuesday afternoon as she waded through the basement with a flashlight to show the damage. "We just had a chain going. We'd go in one area and it was 'take it down, take it down, take it down'…. We were on a mission to save everything.'"

She said she didn't think they had lost anything of historical value but that some items sustained water damage and there is the worry of mold and mildew.

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