Local woman shares memories of the 1918 flood
Halie Forstner, now 107 years old, remembers the flood and says her family was lucky, but neighbors weren't as fortunate.
It's been 100 years since the flood of 1917-1918. Most won't remember the flood that led to a city-wide evacuation. The flood displaced 6,000 people and contributed to the decision to raise the city of Chattanooga.
As you walk downtown, you'll notice windows near the ground of the colder buildings. These aren't the basements. They were the first story to many homes and businesses.
As the Tennessee River continued to flood populated areas, the city decided to raise these frequently flooded buildings, mainly along Chestnut, and what's now Broad Street. Dirt was used to fill in the first story.
Historian Mary Helms says after 1867, the city started discussing the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
"The Tennessee River crested the highest in 1867, and that's when it washed away the Military Bridge," says Helms.
This was the only bridge at the time to the North Shore.
The water rose to a record stage of 58 feet. During this time, the river was used for transportation, food, trading, and bathing.
In 1917, a major flood left 6,000 people homeless and one casualty. Water began to rise again in January of 1918.
"Mayor Littleton issued a proclamation, alerting people that they needed to evacuate," adds Helms.
Halie Forstner, now 107 years old, remembers the flood and worked for TVA from 1933-1939.
"They came up in boats, to the house, which we bought. The water came up to the porch, but it didn't get into the house," says Forstner.
She recalls boats traveling on Market Street and says her family was lucky, but neighbors weren't as fortunate.
"Next door was two story. It got in the first floor of that house and they just moved upstairs," states Forstner.
TVA was created in 1933 to build the dams that now help protect the valley. At the time it was President Roosevelt and Mayor Littleton that made this change.
Both Mary Helms and Halie Forstner tell Channel 3, change was inevitable, whether or not it was going to occur in the 1930s, it was bound to happen.
Since TVA was established, the Tennessee River's highest point was 36.9 feet. This is 21 feet below the 1867 record.
Have a weather related story idea? Feel free to email Meteorologist Brittany Beggs.