How do you relocate a town? It is not easy. Maybe the first question that comes to mind is why you would? The reason for the relocation I will explain in this post is flooding. Not just occasional floods, but the most significant flood in a century. A flood that forever changed a small community in the Southwestern end of the state of Virginia.
During the first week of April in 1977 there was a rain event that caused a massive flood that affected several communities, including Clinchport, Virginia, the home of my mother. Clinchport was no stranger to flooding. Built in a valley next to the Clinch river, it had seen bad floods before, but nothing like the one in 1977.
This flood was the worst on record since 1862. By April 5th Clinchport was nearly completely submerged as the flow of water overcame the small town. You can see a photo below from a Geological Survey Professional Paper.
My experience with this event was as a twelve year old coming in after the flood water receded, to help my grandparents try to clean up their home. My grandfather was the mayor of Clinchport during this flood. He had the unenviable task of staying during the flood and hearing homes floating down the river and crashing into the railroad trestle you see in the photo below.
The eerie thing was I fished on the banks of this river on the Sunday before the rain began to fall. This was a place I loved to spend time in when I was young. It resembled Mayberry to me in that everyone knew me as Ray and Ada’s grandson. I could go anywhere and feel at home. All this changed when I rode into Clinchport with my parents to see what the flood had done.
As you can imagine, the devastation was widespread. Homes had been ripped from their foundations and moved or destroyed by an amount of water hard to fathom. As a result of this event, the Tennessee Valley Authority eventually enacted a plan to relocate many of the residents to a planned community in nearby Duffield, Va called thomas Village. My grandmother eventually bought a parcel of land and built a house there.
On April 23rd I will tell you about the natural disaster that struck my father’s hometown thirty four years later in April of the year 2011.
SPECIAL NOTE : I would like to use this space to offer a heartfelt thank you to Arlee Byrd, the founder of this challenge. I am happy to see his vision become such a great success. Leaders always step out of the pack to create something special. We want Arlee to know how much we appreciate his genius.
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Joe, my family on my dad’s side are from Clinchport VA. Last name Jennings. I was there when I was very young, probably 50+ years ago. I remember my Great Grandfather named George Jennings was in bed paralyzed. He lived up on the hillside and also owner a house just below his. I also remember a swinging bridge to cross a river. I am driving to Kingsport soon and am interested in visiting Clinchport to see my roots. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks, Don
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That looks like a huge flood! We have a couple of towns here in Australia that flood regularly (maybe every 20 years or so?), but no one talks about relocating them, LOL. I always thought it would be a good idea. Couple of nastly floods in our local area in the last few years, but luckily we’re above the flood levels.
Nicely done, Joe. Fascinating piece of personal history. I’ve been to flood regions myself and the devastation is so overwhelming that one can hardly fathom what they’re seeing. I recall a flood in Pennsylvania near King’s College in the early 70’s. I still remember seeing a full sized motor boat hanging by a rope from the very top of a telephone pole — just where the owner had tied it off after it ran out of gas. Of course that’s when the water was 25 feet deep. When I showed up the water was gone and this boat just hung up there over our heads. Staggering.
Thanks for stopping by my post today as well. Much appreciated.