The horrific scenes from Houston and Beaumont make you wonder if that could happen here. Probably not, to that degree--Knoxville's altitude, combined with the multiple dams, reservoirs, and daily watchfulness of the Tennessee Valley Authority makes massive flooding in Knoxville very unlikely.

Not that we never have to worry about it. In the last 75 years that the river has ostensibly been under federal control, parts of Knoxville have suffered several flash floods, especially during storms in the vicinity of major creeks. I've seen Tyson Park covered with water several times. I used to ride my bike to work that way, and after a flood I often found unfortunate fish stranded several yards from Third Creek's banks.

Still, Knoxville has gotten several serious floods in its deeper history. The Tennessee was once a variable river, subject to swelling with spring rains, and waters from the Holston in Virginia and the French Broad in North Carolina would come together in Knox County, and in the springs, the levels would rise even when it wasn't raining here. Sometimes they'd keep rising, and would flow into the creek beds, and into the city. First Creek and he hundreds of people who lived along it were especially vulnerable. A low-rent, high-density residential area just to the east of the Old City was called Cripple Creek, and it would flood regularly, sometimes more than once a year. The people who lived there would just have to get on their roofs and hope for the best. Because it was an area known for stockyards and slaughterhouses, floods were sometimes especially awful. Floods in this northeastern part of downtown were still a regular thing until the 1940s.

The worse flood in Knoxville history came in early March, 1867. It rained and rained, and the river rose, and kept rising. The creeks rose, and kept rising, too. First and Second Creeks joined together, forming a lake on the north side of town, along the railroad tracks. The old part of downtown, the part with the courthouse and Market Square--or uptown, as they sometimes called it back then, because it was higher than the rest of the urban part of town--was, for a few days, an island. When the waters receded, survivors found apocalyptic scenese, down along Central Street, detritus, and even corpses of the drowned, in the trees.

The flood of 1867 washed out the new bridge across the river, near Gay Street. The flood's high-water mark was remembered with a small monument along the river bluff. It remained a curiosity into the 20th century, but I've never met anyone who remembers having seen it.

At another flood, in the 1890s, a riverboat sailed up Central Street, and moored for a few hours near Church Street.

That doesn't happen anymore, thanks in large part to TVA.

But it's safe to say that what we used to call "uptown"--the urban part of Knoxville between State and Henley, and south of Summit Hill--has never, ever flooded. We sometimes complain about the inconvenience of having a downtown up on top of a river bluff, where it requires an uphill hike to get to it from any direction, especially from the river. But that elevation puts it out of range of any foreseeable flood--short of the one in Genesis, perhaps.