The Kenmore flood of 1996

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The Kenmore flood of 1996

Postby Yellowspoon » Sun Aug 12, 2018 12:33 pm

The Kenmore flood of 1996.

When I rode the Riverside line in the 80s, the stairs at Longwood puzzled me. If one wanted to walk along the banks of the Muddy River, patrons had to walk up 6-8 steps and then down 6-8 steps over an embankment (or levee) that did not seem necessary. I never knew the embankment’s purpose until October, 1996, when heavy rains occurred. The Muddy River overflowed onto the tracks somewhere. The water ran into the Fenway portal and flooded the tracks all the way to Hynes.

The aforementioned embankment runs along to the tracks from Fenway station to Aspinwall Avenue. On numerous occasions, I have attempted to find the location where the breach occurred. I’ve even sifted through 1996 newspapers hoping to find a photo of the breach. My only thought is Longwood station itself. Since the flood, the stairs have been rebuilt. My theory (and this is just a theory) is that pedestrians walking over the embankment (rather than the stairs) wore it down over time. The stairs have been rebuilt with railings forcing people to take the stairs.

What prompted this thread was a sign that I saw at Waban on 07-Aug-18. It read that the Riverside line would have bustitution from Fenway to Brookline Hills from August 13th to 16th after 9pm. The sign says, in part, “Thank you for your patience as we work to reduce the impacts to service from flooding near Fenway Station. …”. Does anyone have any idea what the T plans to do? The embankment seems to have held back all rain storms since 1996. What more could possibly be done?
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Re: The Kenmore flood of 1996

Postby Disney Guy » Sun Aug 12, 2018 3:17 pm

I think the water just rose high enough to surmount the berm, or levee, as-is with no previously worn low spot.

With all the rain water from rooftops, street gutters, etc. and even from other rivers swollen by similar influxes of water, all collected by the Muddy River, it should have been no surprise that the river overflowed.

IMHO it was human error that allowed the subway to get flooded. Crew should have been out to sandbag the Fenway portal and perhaps other portals such as St. Mary's.
(To the theater stage manager) Quit twiddling the knob and flickering the lights while the audience is entering and being seated. (To the subway motorman) Quit twiddling the knob and dinging the doors while passengers are getting off and others are waiting to board.
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Re: The Kenmore flood of 1996

Postby BandA » Sun Aug 12, 2018 10:55 pm

I was under the impression that water overflowed near the portal. I assume that levee in Brookline was built by the railroad long before it became the Green Line, and was designed to protect the track rather than the subway. Probably when the track was grade-separated, which I believe was the late 1800s.
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Re: The Kenmore flood of 1996

Postby dieciduej » Mon Aug 13, 2018 2:13 am

Disney Guy wrote:I think the water just rose high enough to surmount the berm, or levee, as-is with no previously worn low spot.

With all the rain water from rooftops, street gutters, etc. and even from other rivers swollen by similar influxes of water, all collected by the Muddy River, it should have been no surprise that the river overflowed.

IMHO it was human error that allowed the subway to get flooded. Crew should have been out to sandbag the Fenway portal and perhaps other portals such as St. Mary's.


One of the problems was that the Muddy River wasn't in it's natural state. It had been constricted, in front of the Sears Building (now Landmark Center), by running it underground and in piping for better traffic flow and parking at one time. About a year or two ago they finally finish the project to open it up back to almost original state as well as removed years of sediment buildup. This should prevent a backup in the Fenway Portal area, but when it rains for long periods issues can still occur.
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Re: The Kenmore flood of 1996

Postby OCC Retiree » Mon Aug 13, 2018 7:24 am

I was a Green Line motorman then. There had been a similar flood in 1962, so it was not unprecedented. The flooding in 1996 was rather sudden. No trains were stranded as they were in 1962, but the Kenmore Inspector had to almost literally run for his life down the tunnel to the emergency exit between Kenmore and Hynes. That's how fast it came in from the Fenway portal. The water made it almost to the Copley Junction. Parts of the Huntington Avenue subway were affected too. The water at Kenmore was up to the ceiling, and it gradually tapered down inbound from there. There was more than just mud in the Muddy River. The water itself was full of sludge and sewage. I remember tree branches and other debris tangled in the power lines along the tunnel wall. The signals were destroyed. The Beacon Junction and the Kenmore switches were on hand-throw for weeks. They placed flashing lanterns at intervals in the affected area from the portals to Hynes. We were restricted to 10mph, and had to make a full stop at each lantern. I don't remember exactly how long that lasted until new signals were installed, but it was probably a couple of months. Anyway, they did learn from that incident and they devised an S.O.P. outlining steps to deal with a similar situation. In my time at OCC we never had to use it.
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