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 September 2013


By Paul Harvey

Thursday, June 27, 2013, started as a relatively normal day for the museum. I was planning on getting some mowing done but, by 8 AM, the skies were looking ominous. Shortly after, the rain started falling, and by 10 AM a local resident had recorded 4.3 inches in his rain gauge. Little Sandy Creek was rising rapidly and started to come over its banks and onto the bottom fields about 9 AM.  I  was still not too concerned, but by 10:30 AM we had a major flood threatening the museum with the water near the restrooms. I just felt so helpless at this time as there was really nothing to do but wait until the rain stopped and the water receded. Then, cautiously, I began to assess the damage and consider the magnitude of the cleanup.  Thank goodness we had no major damage done but much debris was carried out onto the fields and gravel was washed from the driveways. The small buildings in the wooded area had about six or eight inches of water in them but, again, no major damage except a layer of slimy mud. This article is a photo essay of what Coolspring Power Museum looks like during a major flood.

I was to learn later that much more rain had fallen in our watershed to the east of Coolspring.  Several bridges were washed out and small drainage ditches became raging torrents eating the pavement away and closing roads.  The state equipped their trucks with snow plows to clear the debris on the roads.  The city of DuBois was still closed to entrance and exit due to water and road damage at 6 pm!     

Historically, the museum did suffer a very major flood in July, 1996.  At that time we had 2 to 3 feet of water in all the main buildings doing much damage. The last time Coolspring registered such a flood was 1936 and all the folks talked about it for years. But the 1996 flood was higher and considered to be a 100 year disaster.  Yet just 17 years later a flood occurred that crested only 2 feet lower than the 1996 flood.

Photo 1 shows the general view of the museum from the restroom area. This was taken about 10 AM and the water was still rising at this time. When the water crested it did spare the new restroom facility as well as the Susong building.  Looking left from the restrooms, Photo 2 shows the museum signboard just into the water with about 2 feet of water rushing through the Pedersen Pavilion. It was interesting to stand there and watch all kinds of debris flowing across the fields below with some catching on benches and trees. We lost most of our wood blocking stored under the trailers, but no other items of significance. We knew at this time that when the water receded there was going to be a big cleanup job ahead. 

Photo 3 shows our windmill surviving but with water surrounding its legs. At least it did not have to work to pump any water this day!  But with the windmill surrounded, the food court was now partially covered with brown muddy water that floated in sticks and all kinds of debris.     

Looking at the other side of the museum grounds, Photo 4  shows the exhaust pit for Windy City completely filled with water which was backing up towards the Lillibridge Station. Being just a bit higher, Windy City, as well as the Power Technology Building and Lillibridge Station, did not have any interior water damage.  But the small buildings in the wooded area were a different story. All had about 6 to 8 inches of water inside that left muddy deposits on everything that it touched.  Photo 5 shows the Coolspring Municipal Works building and the engine outside surrounded by a lot of muddy water. Although necessitating a floor clean up, the equipment was mounted high enough that it was not touched by the water. 

As the rain gradually tapered off, the water crested about 1 PMPhoto 6 shows the Expo building at that time. The current of the water, moving fast, was up about 6 inches on the door of the building.  But unlike the 1996 flood, the door held and there was only  some evidence of wet gravel inside. The storage trailers seen beside the building had water up to their axles and much flood debris underneath.  Photo 7 is a telephoto shot across to the small structure that houses the creek pumps. Although it stands on 3 foot high legs, the water was right up to the floor of the building.  It is amazing how it withstood the torrents.  The raging water can be seen splashing against the large pieces of concrete on the creek bank that protect the structure. It is interesting to note that these concrete chunks are actually part of the old Coolspring Bridge that was washed out during the July 1996 flood.

Photo 8 is a shot of the driveway between the Susong Building and the gift shop. This water was backflow containing little debris but did completely isolate the Susong building. 

Another photo shot in the wooded area shows the water up to the crankshaft of the McIntire and Willetts engine located near the other small structures.  This is shown in Photo 9 with the Pattin Brothers Power building in the background.  This water was raging through and left much flood debris of all kinds. Many days were taken to get most of it cleared up and hauled away but there are still many places that the evidence of the flood can be seen.  Indeed, there will be evidence of this flood for years to come.

By 5 PM Photo 10 shows that the water has receded from the food court but left some wooden debris. Looking closely in the background, the water is still covering most of the fields. By 7 PM, I was able to survey the damage done as seen in Photo 11.  It would still be another two days before my Gator could get around to all the areas of the museum grounds.  With hard showers every afternoon, the fields continued to have large puddles, more like lakes, remaining.

As you are reading this most all the damage has been either cleaned up or repaired. But looking closely one can see the evidence of flood debris sticking in places along the creek bank and various trees. It will take the rest of the year for all to return to normal.  It is our hope that this will not happen again for 100 years.

Is seems that the year has gone so quickly, but the museum season is drawing to a close.  We will be open for the September weekend on September 21 and 22,  2013 and our big Fall Expo and Swap Meet will be October 17, 18 and 19,  2013. This will be a big show and will be our last event for the year. Personal tours and visitation can be scheduled by prior arrangement after this date.  For more information please call 814-849 6883.  See you then!

General view of the museum

Photo 1: A general view of the flooded museum grounds

Note the tree line in the distance.  It's actually the west border of the museum's exhibitor field!  When the Little Sandy Creek overflowed it flooded a large portion of the musuem property.

Pederson Pavilion

Photo 2: The museum signboard and Pederson Pavilion

Museum windmill

Photo 3: The museum windmill

Windy City exhaust pit

Photo 4: Windy City exhaust pit

The tree line in this photo is the south border of the musuem exhibitor field.  The Little Sandy Creek normally flows past the show grounds just beyond the first trees.

Coolspring Municipal Works

Photo 5: The Coolspring Municipal Works building

Harvey Expo building

Photo 6: The Harvey Expo building

Creek Pump building

Photo 7: A view of the structure housing the creek pumps

Susong building

Photo 8: The driveway at the Susong building

Pattin Power Building

Photo 9: The Pattin Brothers Power building

Food Court

Photo 10: Debris left in the Food Court

Still there

Photo 11: Flood damage at the Municipal Works


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