Wise as it Was: Rainy days – Storms in October ’81 flooded county

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, October 20, 2018

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Rainy Day 1

After a summer of drought, Mother Nature has delivered on prayers for rain for the past two months with a string of showers.

In September, 10.15 inches of rain fell in Decatur, according to veteran weather reporter Doyle Green. Before Friday’s latest round of showers, 4.45 inches of rain had been measured for October at Decatur Municipal Airport.

But the area is nowhere near the record tally that fell in October 1981, when the skies opened up and 23.03 inches of rain fell over the 31 days of the month. It was nearly 4 inches more than any other month since 1974.

On Oct. 12-13, 1981, almost 15 inches of rain flooded homes and businesses and destroyed roadways and bridges.

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Alvord, Paradise, Bridgeport, Chico and Boyd schools were closed as students were stranded by roads cut off due to the flooding.

Bridgeport was hit the hardest as the normally placid Turkey Creek turned into a raging river. A half dozen businesses suffered flood damage.

For a time Oct. 13, Bridgeport was virtually isolated with all roads leading into the city covered with water or closed.

Lake Bridgeport rose 13 feet in just three days.

Throughout the county, roads were washed out. In Precinct 1 alone, 17 bridges were deemed impassable. A new bridge on Anneville Cemetery Road was separated from the county road by a gap several feet wide.

Rainy Day 3

Wise County Judge Charles Wilhite estimated damages to county roads at $400,000.

Don Everton at the Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation Service filed a report on the flooding, showing damages of $5 million.

But just as crews began the cleanup work from the mid-October storm, another round hit to close the month. On Halloween, up to 11 inches of rain fell as slow-moving thunderstorms pounded the area, flooding homes and businesses and damaging more roads.

Four children had to be rescued from the home of Herschell Brawley by the Boyd Volunteer Fire Department when Walker Creek rose swiftly inundating the home in 2 to 3 feet of water.

Fortunately, Mother Nature gave the county a break the rest of 1981 with just 2.77 inches falling in November and December of the year. In all, 55.58 inches fell in Decatur for the year – the most until the 70.61 inches measured in 2015.

While the last few weeks have been gloomy, it could be worse.

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