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

Local News
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A number of businesses’ doors are still closed because of flood damage. That includes a number of city facilities including Zoo Knoxville, Chilhowee Park and The Muse Knoxville, which are all situated at the bottom of a hill. The rain and water practically funneled into the area during Saturday’s relentless rain.

More: Emergency crews assess flood damage

Flood waters surround The Muse Knoxville.

“We have taken on originally about a foot of water into the planetarium. It’s receded quite a bit. We currently have about five inches left,” said executive director Ellie Kittrell.

There’s flooding in the storage area as well.

“We have several kits, examples and hands-on activities that we rotate out quite a bit. Unfortunately, there’s going to be a lot of replacement as you can see,” said Kittrell.

Once the water is drained and everything dries out, Kittrell says the carpet and drywall will need replacing as well as cleaning and sanitizing.

“Initially when we came in, we saw the damage. Of course, our hearts stopped. I can say I had a sense of relief when I came back and saw how little was affected in the bigger picture,” Kittell.

When the museum opens to the public, the main exhibits will be accessible. However, the planetarium will be closed off. Kittrell expects repairs to cost thousands of dollars.

“The biggest financial hit for us is actually having to be closed,” said Kittrell.

None of the public areas or animal spaces at Zoo Knoxville were impacted by Saturday’s flooding.

“But we have a transformer in the back of the zoo that was under about six feet of water. So we did have electricity issues,” said Phil Colclough, director of animal care at Zoo Knoxville.

The zoo is using six generators as a way to keep things running and animal care going smoothly.

“It doesn’t affect any of their light cycles. It doesn’t affect any of their temperatures,” added Colclough.

The back parking lot at Zoo Knoxville is under a good amount of water. Colclough says they’re pumping the flood waters out every day.

“We need to get the transformer dry and out and replaced before we can get back online. We’re going to work on a parking plan as soon as we get everything back and ready to go,” Colclough said.

Related: 800-900 Knoxville homes and businesses damaged by flooding

City leaders explained how the flooding in this part of Knoxville got so bad.

“As with a lot of the watershed areas in the city of Knoxville, that drain to sinkholes, they got filled up by that month or so of rain before the major flood. Then the major flood came and really filled them up,” said Jim Hagerman, director of engineering for the city of Knoxville.

There are pumps getting water out which drain to Williams Creek, but there aren’t big outlets and water leaves slowly.

Zoo Knoxville and The Muse Knoxville say they’re taking things day by day. The best way to help is simply visiting their facilities as soon as they open. Kittrell adds the museum is also keeping a list of people offering to volunteer.

Hagerman says the city is exploring options so flooding of this magnitude in this area doesn’t happen again.

“We’re in the process of doing a site plan, a site master plan, for the park and zoo area and certainly stormwater is one of the big issues there,” he said.

City leaders say they don’t believe repairs that were made to nearby Prosser Road years ago made any kind of impact on Saturday’s flooding. Hagerman says this is the first time since the changes that Prosser Road has been closed after a storm and the repairs have helped with smaller storms in the past.

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