Pittman Center (Sevier County) Flooding
September 22, 1989


 

On September 22, 1989, thunderstorms near Pittman Center, TN (along the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains) produced extremely heavy rain that swept down Little Webb Creek, which flows directly past the city hall and elementary school. School was in session at the time and children had to be rescued. A rope line was strung from the school, across the parking lot and road, and finally the bridge, to higher ground. Water was rapidly entering the school and children were gathered by teachers and staff out the front door to volunteers who carried many of them piggy back along the rope line to safety.
Flash floods of this type happen so quickly that you may not have time to get to safety beforehand. Nobody was killed in this flood and the heroic rescuers and staff at Pittman School risked their lives to save the children.
If you are in rugged terrain, and thunderstorms are anywhere in the area, make plans before the rain starts to get to higher terrain. Know where to run! If you see or hear water coming, drop what you are doing and move. Vehicles are often the most dangerous places to be in a flood. Most flood deaths in the United States occur in vehicles.


View near city hall along Little Webb Creek.
View near city hall along Little Webb Creek. Normally the creek is just wide enough for a man to jump across.

View of the flooded playground.
Not a good time to be on the playground.

Looking upstream several hours after crest.
Looking upstream several hours after crest.

View of the creek back in its banks.
Several hours later, the creek is back in its banks.

Looking downstream in the school’s front parking lot showing that the water has come down significantly.
Looking downstream in the school’s front parking lot. The water has come down significantly by this time, or the photographer would not have been able to stand here.

View showing the flooding creek between 100 and 150 feet wide.
The flooding creek is between 100 and 150 feet wide at this time.

View looking across the creek from in front of the school.
Looking across the creek from in front of the school. Water was over this bridge. Normally the creek is just out of sight from this point.

View looking upstream in front of school.
Looking upstream in front of school. The water was over the top of the bridge railing at its crest.

View of more water behind the school.
More water behind the school.

View looking downstream in front of the school.
Looking downstream in front of the school. Notice the standing wave in the foreground. This indicates very rapidly flowing water, and produces an undertow that is extremely dangerous.

View after the crest. Water was up to the windows of these cars and about three feet deep in the school.
After the crest. Water was up to the windows of these cars and about three feet deep in the school.

View from across the street. Water has come back down, but is still about a foot deep inside the school.
From across the street. Water has come back down, but is still about a foot deep inside the school. This is plenty deep enough to wash a person away. Eighteen inches of moving water will wash away most cars.

View of water, water, everywhere.
Water, water, everywhere.

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