June 17, 1971 – A Massive Storm in St. Paul

The following article was featured in the June 24th, 1971 edition of the Clinch Valley Times. When the article appeared, only a few of the storm photos were included due to the limitations of printed media.  That means some of the photos you’re seeing today are “new old news.”

These pictures are a valuable reminder of what St. Paul looked like in 1971.  They are also a reminder that before the hand of man the town was orignally a swampy sinkhole.  A small creek, fed by numerous springs near St. Paul Elementary School, flowed down Deacon Drive/Fourth Ave. and disappeared into a small cave underneath today’s Western Front Hotel.  

In time, the creek was “tamed” by piping it into the town’s storm drain system.  However, the creek occasionally reasserts itself and reclaims its former territory.  During heavy storms, there have been several occasions when the hydraulic pressure of this water was so great it blew off cast iron storm drain gratings, shooting geysers of muddy water into the air.

Nature is unimpressed with our feeble efforts to domesticate it.  Since 1971, this scenario has been and will be repeated.


A sudden storm hit St. Paul last Thursday around 5:00 p.m. leaving damage estimated at over $100,000.  A cloudburst, gusts of wind, and lightning roared into town as workers were making their way home from work.  Mr. Boyd Powers, who is 75 years young, said that 2.85 inches of rain fell from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.  He said that an additional inch of rain was measured from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

The initial cloudburst continued for a solid hour without a let-up.  As a result, the streets in the downtown district were flooded, so were basements, and water flowing into the underpass reached a depth of 7 feet before it started to recede.  Thousands of dollars of damage was left in the wake of the storm.

One car was caught in the filling underpass and it was a while before a wrecker was able to pull the vehicle out of the water.  Passage through the underpass was held up from 5:00 until 7:00 p.m. 

Powers, who is the local weatherman, said that in all his 75 years he had never seen so much water fall in such a short time.

An earth slide at the St. Paul football field covered an area out on the field with hundreds of tons of earth and trees.  A baseball dugout was covered.  It will take days to clean this one up.  The were other reports of flooding of basements in the school area.

Third Ave., coming off Gray Hill, was a complete river for a long while.  Ditches could not handle the mass of water.  Part of the road was washed away and came tumbling down the hill toward homes on Buchanan and Wise Streets.  Lightning was reported to have hit a tree along Third Avenue and the impact cut a hole 50 feet wide and 25 feet deep.  The earth and trees came close to hitting the Stewart home on Wise Street.  In this area, only about two feet of land separates Third Avenue from the huge crevice.

June 24, 1971 (4) mudslide on Third Ave.

Huff-Cook Funeral Home just recently erected a wall in the parking lot of their funeral home.  The storm demolished the wall.

The Imperial Service Station’s operator said that a huge gust of wind came roaring through, knocking over a large billboard.  Apparently, the same gust crossed the highway and ripped off a section of a metal awning on the Jessee Apartments.  Part of the awning fell straight to the ground, while another section went sailing across the roof of the apartments and hit a house trailer on the opposite side.  Jessee’s store sign was also loosened.

The W. L. Kennedy property at the foot of Hardy Hollow was covered with tons of rock and dirt as a result of Thursday’s storm.  Torrents of water flowing down Whetstone cut a ditch from 1 to 4 feet deep as it came off the hill.  The onrushing water washed out the road at the entrance of Hardy Hollow, depositing tons of earth in the Kennedy yard.

A deluge of water coming off the steep hill at the W. M. Glovier home did much damage when oceans of earth and water hit the side of the Glovier house.  The impact knocked a hole in the house near the front porch.  The earth and water filled the basement of the house, causing the block foundation to buckle.  The impact also moved the house some six inches, leaving one side protruding from the foundation.

Elsewhere in Hardy Hollow, a small creek suddenly became a river.  Earth and debris washed down toward the Clinch River.  The narrow road was devoured as the raging torrent ate away everything in its path.  Old car bodies that blocked the stream caused the stream to gouge out a huge section of the road.  One car was washed some 300 feet and finally came to a stop at a culvert.

The Town Crew, the highway crew, the fire department, and hundreds of local citizens worked until 12:00 p.m. Thursday to help clear streets, pump out basements, and try to make roads passable.



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