There are few remaining who played witness to it, but the great flood of 1916 was one of the worst natural disasters in the history of Western North Carolina.
On Sunday, the Mount Airy Public Library will open its doors to play host to a showing of a documentary about the flood that devastated an entire region.
On July 15, 1916, 22 inches of rainfall was recorded near Grandfather Mountain, according to media reports about the storm. That rainfall followed more than a week of rain. The result of two hurricanes, it was more rain than had ever been recorded in a single day, and more than 80 people died in the flood.
The documentary, Come Hell or High Water, is the creation of David Weintraub, the executive director of the Center for Cultural Preservation in Hendersonville.
Librarian Pat Gwyn said Sunday’s program isn’t limited to just a showing of the documentary. Weintraub will also provide a brief explanation of the video, and a discussion will follow the movie.
According to a press release, Weintraub’s organization is a “cultural nonprofit organization dedicated to working for mountain heritage continuity through oral history, documentary film, education and public programs.”
Weintraub has also produced other documentaries about the history and heritage of western North Carolina, according to the statement.
The French Broad River was 17 feet above flood stage and the Swannanoa River was a mile wide at the time of the flood, according to Weintraub.
Countless media reports from 1916 detail the stories of those who survived and those who didn’t. Iconic locations in Western North Carolina such as the Biltmore Estate flooded. Asheville, as a whole, was largely under water.
Though flooding was worst further west, Surry County was far from unaffected by the natural disaster. According to reports, the Yadkin River flowed out of its banks, causing significant flooding in Elkin.
One account of the flood mentions the flood waters rose to nine feet in the Rockford train station, and sand deposited on the floor of the station during the flood could be seen for years.
With the flooding also came a great deal of mudslides and other secondary disasters. In a promotional video about his documentary, Weintraub explains folks today can learn many lessons from the flood. Such a catastrophic event would be even more catastrophic in 2017 or 2018. Entire subdivisions are built on hillsides which could come sliding down.
Sunday’s flood program is free to the public, said Gwyn. There were costs associated with hosting the event. However, the Friends of the Library organization is footing the bill.
The program begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, and those seeking additional information may call the library at 789-5108.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.