Following WSMV4 Investigations, major debris removed from source of deadly flooding

A year after the flood, WSMV4 Investigates found debris in Trace Creek, prompting fears of another disaster.
A year after the flood, WSMV4 Investigates found debris in the creek, prompting fears of another disaster.
Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 7:32 PM CDT
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WAVERLY, Tenn. (WSMV) - Trace Creek in Humphrey’s County is flowing a bit smoother these days.

Following the August 2021 flood in which 20 people were killed, the clogged creek has been the source of great debate.

A series of WSMV4 Investigations revealed how Trace Creek flooded after record-breaking rainfall amounts, and residents say debris from inside the creek clogged a culvert, forcing the water to pool behind.

A lawsuit claims that when the water pooled, it had nowhere to go, ultimately pushing through a berm under a railroad track, sending a surge of water towards the town.

Local government officials have long wanted to dredge the creek, but state law reads that no large machinery, like a bulldozer, can be used to clear it.

A year after the flood, WSMV4 Investigates went into Trace Creek, and found a large mound of debris right by the culvert, prompting residents to fear if another flood occurred, the same disaster could occur.

After our findings in July 2022, we asked Patrick Sheehan, the director of Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, what could be done.

“That creeks needs to be cleaned out. There are places that are clean where homeowners have access. We’ll take a look at how we organize that, help the community get Trace Creek cleaned out,” Sheehan said.

TEMA now confirms, four months after our story aired, a contingency of state agencies moved in to clear Trace Creek and another creek.

In an email to WSMV4 Investigates, a TEMA spokeswoman wrote in part, “Crews from TEMA, the West Tennessee River Basin Authority, and TDOT gathered in Humphreys County to assist local agencies with identifying and removing debris from several creek locations. This large-scale cleanup effort was coordinated over several weeks and culminated with the successful removal of woody debris, as well as a shipping container, from the creek bed.”

Photographs taken of the creek by the culvert last week show much of the major debris gone, including a fallen tree removed and much of the mountain of limbs removed.

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