Louisville landmark comes back bigger, stronger five years after - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Louisville landmark comes back bigger, stronger five years after flood

One of the images that sticks in the mind from that day was the statue of Barbaro, floating on an island at the Kentucky Derby Museum. (Source: WAVE 3 News) One of the images that sticks in the mind from that day was the statue of Barbaro, floating on an island at the Kentucky Derby Museum. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Derby Museum Executive Director Lynn Ashton (Source: WAVE 3 News) Derby Museum Executive Director Lynn Ashton (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - On August 4, 2014 there were sunny skies with a few clouds in Louisville, which is a big difference from what it looked like on the same day in 2009. That's when the skies opened up. In just a few short hours 6.5 inches of rain came pouring down, causing some of the worst flooding we've seen in decades.

One of the images that sticks in the mind from that day was the statue of Barbaro, floating on an island at the Kentucky Derby Museum. Not much else was visible. Inside it was even worse, making a day no one will forget.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Library shows signs of progress on flood cleanup]

Derby Museum Executive Director Lynn Ashton greeted her staff in 2014 with an email that asked, "What were you doing five years ago if you were working here?"

She remembers the day in 2009 very well.

"It was a little after nine o'clock," she said, "and then all of a sudden the radios, the in-house radio system started going and they said sewage is coming out of the commodes." Three to four inches of it coated the main floor. Down below, where all the priceless pictures and artifacts are stored, it was worse.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Heavy rains causing widespread flooding in Kentuckiana]

Ashton said, "The lower level had 12 inches of elevator oil, water and sewage." Twenty-four feet of water flooded the elevator shaft and staff scrambled to save the treasures.

As the museum started to dry out, Ashton began to see the silver lining. "If you go back to the old A Tale of Two Cities, 'It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.' If you're going to have a catastrophe, it really came at a good time because we already had a committee working on looking at changing the museum," she said.

Nine months later, the Kentucky Derby Museum reopened, with an emphasis on new theme -- "It's My Derby" -- and a new life. "To have the opportunity to make everything new and vibrant and wonderful," said Ashton. "It was a great way, in all honesty, for us to reach out to the community."

One thing remains that Ashton knows will be invaluable, should it ever happen again, "having a dedicated staff, who was willing to go into the muck and save things."

Ashton says staff has repositioned a few things, but the museum brought in pros to do an assessment and really there's nothing that it can do to put itself in a better position if another flood like 2009 should come.

The flood was especially devastating in the areas of Louisville that have problems when we get just a simple summer storm. The area around Maple Street near 22nd Street and Broadway in the West End is one of those areas. There, some residents were taken out of their homes in rescue boats.

Since the flood, MSD has bought 61 of the 128 properties in the area and demolished 30 of the homes. Another 10 homes are under contract and scheduled to close.

So far, MSD has spent $3.2 million buying out the area so there's nothing left to flood the next time we get a catastrophic rain.

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