Almost Yesterday: The Great Flood of 1937
It seems like almost yesterday that a large weather front stalled over the Ohio Valley, covering much of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. Heavy rain fell during the first three weeks of January, 1937, elevating the Ohio River to record levels from Pittsburgh to Cairo, and into the lower Mississippi.
Floods of America’s great rivers can and have occurred in every month of the year, but the 1937 flood was made severe when in the third and fourth weeks of January, with the rivers rolling across the land, a winter storm with ice, sleet, snow and bitter cold settled over the region. A natural disaster was emerging.
Here, in the midst of the great depression and a short time after the scorching heat and dust bowl experiences of the mid-30's, came a major flood in the midst of snow, sleet and severe cold.
Cincinnati, Louisville, Evansville, Paducah and Cairo were among the most challenged cities. before the water levels fell below flood stage more than one million people were homeless, 400 individuals were dead, and property damage across eleven states exceeded 500 million dollars.
Following the even greater flood, of 1927, the corps of engineers worked for a decade to construct levees, walls, reservoirs and floodways to move large pools of water through the river valley to the gulf with minimal damage. But, there was simply too much water and the corps of engineers, with the valiant efforts of thousands of volunteers, WPA, and CCC workers did what they could to control the force of the moving water.
This included the deliberate breeching of the recently constructed bird’s point, New Madrid floodway, an action repeated in the flood of 2011.
It seems like almost yesterday…