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Remembering the Great Flood of 1913
Posted on: 03/18/2013
By  Mike Cullums
This report was produced by Andy Rex, posted by Mike Cullums
This is National Flood Safety Awareness Week, and next weekend is the 100th anniversary of the Great Flood of 1913.
 
The storms that caused the great flood began in the western United States during the second week of March in 1913.  A second, even more powerful storm followed a week later, and then a third storm on March 23-25, 1913, created historic rises in several rivers, including the Ohio and the Muskingum.
 
The flood caused enormous damage in Ohio and across the midwest.  Sarah Jamison is a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Cleveland.
 
“Just in Ohio, we saw over a quarter of a million people being displaced by the flood.  At the time, Ohio had a population of around five million, so that is statistically significant," says Jamison. "It was also the final nail in the coffin for our canal systems, which were going downhill anyway as the railroads were starting to take over. When this storm came, they had to dynamite a number of the levees and locks, and that basically ended the canal system. It also led to the very first conservancy watershed district in the country, and that was the result of this flood.”
 
The Miami Conservancy District was started in the late teen's and succeeded in greatly reducing flooding in western Ohio - especially in Dayton, which was considered the worst hit by the massive multistate flood.
 
The Muskingum River Conservancy District was created in 1933. Like the Miami, the Muskingum has been largely tamed by the series of reservoirs and other flood control measures.
 
One of many astonishing facts about the 1913 Flood:  Every bridge on the Muskingum River, from Coshocton to Marietta, was destroyed.

Jamison says only the Johnstown, Pa., Flood of 1889 had more fatalities from a flood event, and she says other weather casualties were more localized than the 1913 Flood.  

“Three state capitals were paralyzed for days. You had a major railroad shutdown, which at the time was a major source of transportation. Commerce was stifled over the Ohio Valley for several days. The public outcry finally drew attention that perhaps there should be more attention paid to flood control, flood mitigation, and floodplain management.”
 
Jamison says that despite the enormous scale of the event, many people outside the Ohio Valley don’t know much about it. The impacts of the 1913 Flood were not just felt in the Ohio Valley but worldwide, as shipments of industrial and agricultural products were interrupted for many days on the Ohio and for weeks on The Mississippi.  

Learn more about the Great Flood of 1913 online at the Midwestern Regional Climate Center. 
 
 
 
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