RED BOILING SPRINGS, Tenn. (WKRN) — On June 23, 1969, one of the worst weather disasters in Middle Tennessee occurred in Red Boiling Springs when nearly eight inches of rain fell in just a six-hour period between 2:00 am and 8:00 am.
Two young children died when they were swept away in the floodwaters.
This disaster was caused by a combination of heavy rainfall and the fact that Red Boiling Springs lies in a steep, narrow valley, where Salt Lick Creek runs right through the center of the town.
At least nine smaller creeks drain into the Salt Lick before being joined by Witcher Hollow Brook and another creek along Whitely Hollow Road.
The USDA Soil Conservation Service reported 7.95 inches of rainfall at Red Boiling Springs in the five hours ending at 8:30 a.m. An unofficial report claimed that nearly ten inches of rain fell over the watershed of Salt Lick Creek within this period.
Along with the two fatalities, around 35 homes and 15 businesses in Red Boiling Springs were either destroyed or heavily damaged. Four were completely swept away. Many other homes were removed from their foundations. Approximately 40 houses were soaked with up to four feet of water. Virtually every business in downtown Red Boiling Springs was hit heavily by the flood. The town also lost its city water when one of the pumping stations built just six months before was submerged under the floodwaters.
Overall, there was $2 million dollars in property damage based on 1969 economics.
Countywide, there was widespread property damage along virtually every stream. Cattle were washed away, as well as farm equipment, tractors, and trucks. Many tobacco crops were also completely destroyed, with extensive damage to other crops, as well. Over 100 vehicles were washed away. Macon and surrounding counties were soon declared a disaster area.
Unfortunately, in 1969, there was no weather radar or warning system like we have in place today. It wasn’t until the next year the National Weather Service radar in Nashville was installed, partially due to the 1969 Flood. Although this disaster took place mostly in the dark wee hours of the morning, the hope is that the systems we now have in place can prevent loss of life in the future.
Special thanks to National Weather Service Meteorologist Mark Rose and the Macon County Historical Society for the information in this story.