Potential flood damages est. at $133 M
The City of Sevierville is currently in the process of developing a Local Hazard Mitigation Plan to address potential threats from natural disasters.
The plan is intended to reduce community vulnerabilities to various hazardous events, particularly, in Sevier County, floods, earthquakes and high winds. “They want cities to have some idea how to deal with problems like these,” said Sevierville Director of Planning and Development, Jim Bryant.
Once the city has a plan developed, there will be federal grant monies available to help with efforts to reduce these hazards.
The city Planning and Development Department held a meeting Thursday evening to present a draft of the plan to the public before it’s submitted to the state. Though, the meeting proved unsuccessful as no one showed up.
“We wanted to help raise awareness of what could happen in a 100-year flood, for example,” said Bryant. “If we had had a big flood last year, there’d probably be more people here,” he joked.
The term 100-year flood is used to identify a worst-case scenario, or a flood that has a one percent chance of occurring in any given year.
While there was some regional flooding in the Sevierville area in 1994, the last significant floods to hit the city were back in the 60s when large portions of the downtown area would frequently flood.
At that time, the federal government worked to improve the city’s vulnerability by re-channeling the Little Pigeon River to carry more water within its banks.
City officials utilized a specialized computer program to map areas of the city, identify areas vulnerable to hazards and to make estimates of damage in such areas. After identifying problem areas, the city could can determine what they’re greatest vulnerabilities are, and how to alleviate the problem.
The draft of the plan is still in the making, but Bryant did outline some potential ways to mitigate the flood hazard. These include a study of the city’s utility infrastructure and eliminating possible connections between city storm-water and old sewer lines which could cause backups at the waste treatment plant.
Also, current maps of the floodways along the East, West and Middle prongs of the Little Pigeon River show that there are as many as 125 buildings that lie within the flood hazard area.
Bryant said that the city might be able to obtain grant monies to help cover the costs of either elevating or relocating these buildings. Current regulations do not allow building within the floodway unless you have a hydrology study done and show that the construction will not cause an increase
The program estimated that the city could be hit with as much as $133 million in actual damage from a major flood, and $80 million in losses due to business interruptions.
“These, however, are very rough figures that should be taken with a grain of salt,” said Bryant.
In regards to earthquakes, the east Tennessee area is in a moderate earthquake zone, where it is unlikely that it will see any serious damages to the area. The program predicted a 2.2 percent building stock damage following a 5.6 magnitude earthquake. In that case, Bryant said that the area could experience some damaged utility lines or possibly some cracked foundations, “but no terrible damage,” he said.
The planning department will be holding a couple more meetings to receive public comment on the hazard plan. The floodway maps will also be available for viewing at the city planning office by the second or third week of March, Bryant said.
Following the meetings, the planning department will make recommendations for efforts to reduce the effects or impacts of hazardous events.
Lastly, the plan will be submitted to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and then to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for approval. It will then need to be adopted by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.