Thunder cracked, rain pelted and flood waters rose through Louisville neighborhoods Saturday night, forcing residents to find shelter and pressing two MSD flood pumps to fail.
The rains came on top of heavy precipitation that has caused widespread flooding this week along the Ohio River.
Some residents like Allice Harbin were forced to leave as waters approached their homes. Harbin is 88, and has now lived through three floods in Louisville, including the Great Flood of 1937. She advised families be prepared to do what they must during flooding.
“They have to take whatever comes and be satisfied. It could be worse,” Harbin said. “Ain’t nothing you can do about it, so just might as well be satisfied and do what you got to do.”
Red Cross Volunteer Rick Melloan arrived Sunday morning to help Harbin and other displaced residents at a shelter set up at the Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church.
“It’s pretty bad. As bad as I can remember seeing it in a long, long time,” Melloan said of the flood. “And a lot of people are impacted. Hopefully the worst is over.”
The Ohio River was expected to crest early this week.
Though two of its flood pumps did fail, the Metropolitan Sewer District’s blamed the failures on old technology and said the stations still work. Many of the pumps were built in the 1940s and 50s, with some parts being retired or out-of-date.
MSD said it would take $638 million to overhaul the system, but Flood Protection Supervisor JP Carsone said it’s going to be necessary.
“All these things need to be addressed to protect the city,” Carsone said. “If you don’t update the infrastructure, eventually it’s going to come to its service life. And that’s when you start having problems.”
MSD’s flood protection system protects more than 200,000 people and $24 billion in property value. In a press release, MSD said it would repair those broken pumps after flooding recedes. Two more flood gates were going to be installed today, bringing the total to six.
This story has been updated.