HACC and ECCCM team up for historical exhibit

Staff Writer

by michelle t. bernard
o-n-e reporter
For the first time, the Historical Association of Catawba County (HACC) and Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry (ECCCM) are partnering together to share both history, modern preparedness, and community services with local residents.
Earlier this year, the HACC hosted the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Traveling Exhibit, “So Great the Devastation: The 1916 Flood,” an educational display about the 1916 flood which severely damaged western North Carolina.
This July was the 100th year anniversary of the Great Flood of 1916 – an event that has great historical significance in North Carolina but few people in this area are alive who experienced or can remember it.
HACC supplemented the traveling exhibit with information about Catawbans and how they survived the disaster and were able to move on.
“Once that exhibit moved on, there was a very definite gap,” said HACC Director Dr. Amber Clawson. “Many people around here remember the 1940 flood especially considering Duke’s role between 1916 and 1940.”
After the 1916 flood, Duke built numerous dams along the Catawba River which helped save lives during the 1940 flood.
The new exhibit also has some information about the recent 2013 flood because the Bunker Hill Covered Bridge was damaged.
HACC has received over $250,000 in federal grants to have the bridge restored, according to Clawson.
“It was that 2013 flood that got Becca (Bleich, ECCCM community outreach associate) and I thinking about how we could best collaborate,” Clawson said.
Bleich knew that ECCCM had some involvement with the 2013 flood.
“The original idea was that we would come in and speak about our disaster relief efforts and how we help the community in times of need,” said Bleich. “But as I was talking to our executive director he told me that ECCCM played much more of a crucial role in the 2013 flood relief efforts than I realized. I brought that back to Amber and the event expanded from there.”
The admission fee to the opening reception to be held Thursday, Sept. 15 is an item of clothing which will go to ECCCM for their thrift store.
That is the role of ECCCM – to act as a distribution center for the county and in events like the one to be held Thursday evening, the community brings items to the agency and then ECCCM distributes from there, according to Bleich.
In addition, ECCCM partners with Karyn Yaussy at the Catawba County Emergency Management Services in times of disaster.
It is estimated that the 1940 flood caused over $20 million dollars in damage, according to the National Weather Service. The mountains suffered severe flooding in 2004. Most recently, in 2013, on July 27, 2013 alone, parts of Catawba county received over 12 inches of rain in a six-hour period and suffered extensive damage during flooding.
There were 23 swift water rescues, over 100,000 people were contacted by the emergency alert system in Catawba county, 761 calls were made to 911 in a seven-hour period, according to Isenhower.
“I think the only way the Historical Association and museums like it will survive is by showing that history doesn’t end and that when you’re learning about a flood in 1940, it does have repercussions for how we handle more recent disasters,” said Clawson. “So having Karyn Yaussy and County Commissioner Randy Isenhower here to say ‘here’s what we learned from 2013 and here’s how to be prepared in the event that this happens again’ is where our two organizations seem to fit like puzzle pieces.”
The 1940 Flood Exhibit will open with a reception hosted by HACC and ECCCM today at 5:30 p.m. at the Catawba County History Museum. Admission is a requested clothing donation for ECCCM. Light refreshments will be served.

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