75 years ago marks the record setting time of the 1940’s flood. It was on this date, August 13, that downtown Boone became more of a flooded parking lot than a main road through town. According to some records 8 inches of rain fell in just 48 hours, making it the worse flood in Boone’s history at the time and possibly even to today’s era.
Among the destruction was damage to a New River Light & Power dam and machinery, which took one year to repair. It also marked the last time Boone would have regularly scheduled train service, as the tracks washed out between Cranberry and Cranberry Gap in Avery County, and the company decided not to rebuild them. Bridges in many sections of the county washed away, and highway 421 to Wilkesboro was cut into and closed. It’s also worth noting that shortly after the flood the first telegraph lines went in and the first burley tobacco warehouse was built in Boone.
Weather records show 21.40 inches of rain fell for August 1940, making it the most rain recorded for any month in Boone’s history. Yearly rainfall totals for 1940 show 56.97 inches of rain, however 77 days worth of data are missing which could place that year above 2013 as the wettest year on record.
The below photos show the comparison between Aug 13, 1940 and Aug 13, 2015. James Lewis shares the first photo and some notable information. “Seventy-five years ago today, the rain soaked mountains slumped under a deluge of rain and 16 souls in Watauga County perished. A couple of years ago, the late photographer Paul Weston’s niece brought by a collection of photos her uncle took that memorialize those dark days. This is one showing King Street in downtown Boone.”
Aug 13, 1940
Aug 13, 2015 via http://wataugaroads.com/cams/