Growth, repairs & new exhibits: The Muse Knoxville reflects on February 2019 flooding

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Week after week, our region continues dealing with rain. It’s an all-too-familiar situation, a reminder, of the damage floodwaters created in February 2019.

The Muse Knoxville sharing pictures of the flooding outside their facility in February 2019.

On Tuesday, nearly a year to the day, WATE 6 On Your Side got a look inside at The Muse Knoxville and the repairs they’ve made because of that relentless rain.

MORE: Zoo Knoxville, The Muse, Chilhowee Park remain closed as floodwaters recede

In February 2019, The Muse Knoxville shared pictures of the floodwaters surrounding their facility, nearly a foot of water filled the planetarium and damaged their storage area.

The Muse Knoxville’s planetarium flooded in February 2019 with a foot of water.

For roughly three weeks, in 2019, the museum was closed as they cleaned and water was drained.

Leaders with The Muse Knoxville say it’s been a busy year cleaning, repairing, growing and opening new exhibits but they’re thankful for it all.

“Certainly a couple weeks ago we had that very heavy rain on Thursday, we were definitely getting nervous and coming up with plans in case we did take on water,” said Executive Director of The Muse Knoxville, Ellie Kittrell.

Last year, Kittrell gave us a tour of the damage. This week, she says the floodwaters did not impact any of their other exhibits.

“We had to rip all of those materials out, some carpet, dry wall and some other materials and some educational material that we keep in the back storage area, we had to toss out and it’s been replaced,” said Kittrell.

While repairs happened, Kittrell says the planetarium was closed for about six weeks, “We worked hard to get everything cleaned up, wiped down, treated so that it wouldn’t produce any mold or toxins for our guests. Once everything was all clear, we put the carpet back, dry wall up and painted.”

February is a big month for field trips and events, Kittrell says it was a pretty hard hit having the museum closed for about three weeks.

“Insurance unfortunately only covered $1,200 of the damages that we had,” she said. “When we talk about the landscaping, the painting, the educational material, then of course the loss of business revenues and expenses on the payroll side, we were in the hole by about $50,000.”

Officials with the City of Knoxville say The Muse Knoxville received $109,360 from the city through the Community Agency Grant.

A year later though, there’s a sense of gratitude.

“The silver lining that came out of last year for us, it really inspired us to open a second location and that’s basically let us expand our mission,” said Kittrell.

City leaders say there are two pumps in the Chilhowee Park area and when heavy rainfall is forecasted, the pumps lower the level of nearby lakes to divert the water.

Earlier this month, the rain was so heavy, those pumps couldn’t handle everything so the city rented an extra pump and generator to avoid overflows.

We’re told The Muse Knoxville was closed for a day earlier this month as a precaution when there was uncertainty whether the water from Lake Ottosee was still rising.

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