Posted on January 31, 2024
In the wake of a tornado last month that skirted Old Hickory Dam, an extensive recovery is underway to restore communications and rebuild after the twister destroyed key facilities with its 125 mph winds.
“Our #1 priority is the safety of the community and our employees,” said USACE Nashville District Commander Lt. Col. Robert W. Green. “The USACE recreation projects in the Nashville metropolitan area are some of the most highly trafficked Corps of Engineer sites in the country. We’re doing everything we can to return these recreation sites to normal operations so the public can continue to enjoy them.”
Nashville District officials report that the tornado passed over the project Dec. 9, 2023, and damaged the exterior of the hydropower plant, tore the roof off the Electronic Service Section Building on the shoreline of Old Hickory Lake, then demolished several picnic shelters and uprooted a slew of hardwood trees at Rockland Recreation Area.
“Approximately 80 percent of the area took a direct hit and 50 percent or more of its trees are on the ground,” said Dylon Anderson, Old Hickory Lake resource manager. “Two shelters are a complete loss, and another large shelter is severely damaged. Network and electrical outages are still ongoing as well.”
For public safety, Power Plant Road and Rockland Recreation Area on the shoreline of Old Hickory Lake remain closed to the public due to the extent of damage and devastation. The nature trail and tailwater access area also took a direct hit, which caused damage to signage, boardwalk, and portions of asphalt.
It will likely be months before the Corps of Engineers can safely reopen the area. The team is working on a plan to hopefully reopen the boat ramp in the late February or early March timeframe, but the rest will take longer to fund and contract for necessary clearing and rebuilding.
According to the National Weather Service, the EF-2 tornado moved through Madison, across Old Hickory Lake and the Cumberland River into Hendersonville, and then Gallatin, Tennessee.
Chris Campbell, Maintenance supervisor at Old Hickory Powerplant, said after the tornado hit, the first action involved making sure employees at the dam were safe.
“We also performed temporary repairs to damaged structures at the project. We assessed and made temporary repairs to a small auxiliary power substation that is used for the Resource Manager’s Office and worked with the ESS staff to help collect vital equipment and records in their area,” Campbell added. “Everyone was eager and willing to do what had to be done and did not sit back and wait for others to carry the load. Ideas were exchanged and vetted in order to accomplish the task at hand.”
The Nashville District has requested supplemental funding to initially identify all recovery tasks and to build a comprehensive list of damages and cost estimates to support contracts for debris removal and repair or replacement of the facilities affected by the tornado.
“Our team at Old Hickory Lake is resilient and ready to continue supporting our missions through the recovery period. We will continue to generate power, lock boats, and provide visitor assistance at all remaining recreation areas not impacted by the tornado,” said Area Manager Freddie Bell.
Old Hickory Lock and Dam is located on the Cumberland River mile 216.2 in Sumner and Davidson Counties, Tennessee, and are approximately 25 miles upstream from Nashville. The City of Hendersonville is situated on the northern shoreline of the lake and the City of Old Hickory is located on the southern side of the lake. The lake extends 97.3 miles upstream to Cordell Hull Lock and Dam near Carthage, Tennessee.
Other day use areas available to the public at Old Hickory Lake include Shutes Branch, Old Hickory Beach, Lone Branch, Avondale, Cages Bend, Cedar Creek, Laguardo, and Nat Caldwell Park. Go to www.recreation.gov and search for Old Hickory Lake for a list of links to these alternate recreation areas.
(Additional site damage photos and a longer, similar story are available at https://www.dvidshub.net/news/462443/nashville-district-begins-extensive-recovery-wake-old-hickory-tornado)
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps. The public can also follow Cordell Hull Lake on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/cordellhulllake.)