Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Great Ohio River Flood of 1937

Note:  This is a copy of a post printed on the Jones Family Matters blog on January 26, 2012. Since it had such relevance for "A River Runs Through Us" I chose to reprint it here.

View of 1937 Flood Looking East on Eastern toward St. Rose Church

Seventy-five years ago today the Ohio River crested in the Great Flood of 1937.  Over a million people were displaced from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois.  My Dad was 16 years old when it flooded and yet I feel like it is part of my DNA.  Their house was directly across the river and the water got up almost to the second floor.  I heard stories of them using a row boat and going into a second floor window.

My Dad's house across from Highland School at 2424 Eastern Ave.

The area covered by the flood was extensive.  The Cincinnati Post published this aerial view.

At one point, the city even lost it's water supply as flood waters submerged much of the Cincinnati Water Works pumping station on Eastern Ave.  One East End resident recently told me that they gave everyone a half hour notice that the water supply would be stopped.  Everyone was instructed to fill containers, tubs and anything they had before the water was turned off.  He said that he was a child at the time, came in and saw the tub filled with water and decided to give his dog a bath.  Somehow he didn't get the message.

One of my favorite childhood memories was when Dad would take us behind St. Rose Church so that we could see where they recorded each flood's crest on the back of the church.

Although you can't see the numbering from this distance, imagine the 80' crest at the top of the white rectangle on the back of the church.  The river had a normal pool stage of about 13' in 1937.  Changes to dams in the river have increased the normal pool stage to about 26' today.  Recall that our earliest Joneses lived 250' of the southeast corner of that church.  Their house on the river bank flooded every spring.  Good thing they were long gone before this disaster.

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is sponsoring a wonderful commemoration of the flood and its impact on Ohio and surrounding states.  You can check out their wiki here.

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