Waters still not as high as historic floods

Published 1:08 pm Wednesday, December 16, 2009

By By Lydia Grimes
features reporter

While Brewton and East Brewton residents are wading through yet another flood, the current waters are nowhere near as high as they have been in a long history of floods.
The cities’ forefathers must have thought that building a town in the forks of two small streams of water would be a good place to put down roots. Little did they know that those two peaceful little creeks could become a couple of giants when conditions are just right.
The first recording available of a flood in this area was in 1864 when it was inundated with what was called “the Lincoln freshet.”
Again in 1915, Brewton was hit with a flood, but nothing has compared, up until now, to the 1929 flood. Not only did it wreck havoc in Brewton and East Brewton, the flooding occurred all over the South.
A story appeared in the September issue of The Brewton Trade Record, a periodical put out by Robbins-McGowins, detailing the flood of 1929.
It had been raining for almost a week and both the river and the creeks were already high. Early in the morning of Thursday,  March 14, a cloudburst dropped enough rain to measure about a foot in the downtown area. It ran off in a little while but it was only a forerunner for the big rain. Merchants in downtown Brewton began moving stock to higher shelves, thinking that the water would not rise higher than it had the previous year. As the rain fell, water rose higher and higher in the stores along St. Joseph Avenue. Many store owners spent the night in their businesses. The current was so strong that it carried debris and buildings down the railroad track. A refugee camp was set up and airplanes brought relief in the form of bread and blankets, which were dropped to those waiting below. The National Guard was called to maintain order and owners were able to go back into their businesses the following Monday to start cleaning up.
In April 1975, Brewton was once again hit by torrential rains. Old timers said that it was not half as bad as in 1929, but for those who suffered through it, it seemed plenty bad enough. Those who heeded the warnings gathered people to help move goods to higher ground and everyone worked together to save what they could. Disaster shelters were set up in several places and workers waited to see just how much water was going to come from upstream. There had been from 15 to 20 inches of rain and residents knew that it would all reach Brewton at some point.
According to the National Weather Service and the River Forecast Center in Birmingham, many of the residents failed to heed the warnings and it was a big problem. John Downing, who was the civil defense coordinator at the time, said the River Forecast Center would be able to more accurately predict flood conditions in the future and they had learned a great deal of information about Burnt Corn Creek.
There were a couple of smaller floods in 1998, but for the most part, people have learned to live with the fact they are doing business in a flood zone.
No one dreamed that those two peaceful creeks, Burnt Corn Creek and Murder Creek, could turn into the raging torrents that they can.

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