Terror from the river, Jamie Simpson describes flood that destroyed downtown Dayton

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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In this video, Newscenter 7's chief meteorologist, Jamie Simpson, talks to us about the three weather aspects that caused the Great Dayton Flood of 1913.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Events planned to mark the Great Dayton Flood:

“1913: The Great Dayton Flood,” by Stuart McDowell, chairman and artistic director of the Department of Theater, Dance and Motion Pictures at Wright State University, will be staged at the university through Feb. 10. It was inspired the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book “A Time of Terror: The Great Dayton Flood” and features recorded narration by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and Dayton’s Martin Sheen.

The cost is $18 for seniors and Wright State faculty, staff and students. General admission tickets are $20

For more information call 937-775-3072 or click here.

"Storm, Watershed & Riverbank, " Feb. 23 to May 5. Three exhibitions commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Dayton Flood. Dayton Art Institute, 525 W. Riverview Ave., Dayton. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. $8 adults, $5 seniors, groups and active military, free members and youth. (937) 223-5277 or click here.

There were floods in Dayton long before the levees broke and water rushed through downtown streets nearly 100 years ago and terrorized a city.

"They had flood after flood after flood," Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist Jamie Simpson said. "It was a flood prone city before 1913."

Floods were documented in 1814, 1828, 1832, 1847, 1866, 1883, 1897 and 1898.

None of those even rivaled the flood of 1913.

Heavy rains and warm temperatures followed by cold left the ground saturated March 25, 1913 from rain and melted ice and snow, Simpson said.

An estimated eight to 11 inches of rain fell in three days throughout the Great Miami River watershed.

ExploreWATCH Great Dayton Flood of 1913, pt 1

“There was no place for the rain to go, but into the river,” Simpson explained. “1913 without a doubt was the highest the river had ever gotten.”

Piqua, Troy, and Hamilton were also hit hard.

The water rose a foot per hour on March 25 in the five rivers that converge in downtown Dayton.

It was far too much water and two downtown levees broke at about the same time.

“The water started pouring into downtown from two different directions and rising very, very quickly,” Simpson noted.

Devastation like this state had never seen followed.

The water reached 20 feet in some parts of downtown, Simpson said.

There were gas explosions and fire.

“It took four days to recede,” Simpson said. “It was very, very cold.”

ExploreDayton residents retreated to attics and second floors to escape death from the flood waters.

Three hundred sixty one lives were claimed.

Some drowned. Some had heartaches. Some were taken by hypothermia.

The storm displaced 65,000 from their homes, according to Wright State University.

There was more than a $100 million in property damage ($2 billion in today's economy), according to the Miami Conservancy District.

“There were a lot of businesses that lost everything,” Simpson said. “They never came back to the city.”

More than $2 million was raised to begin a comprehensive flood protection program for cities along the Great Miami River.

Arthur Morgan, an engineer based in Memphis, Tenn., was hired in May of 1913.

“When they hired this guy, they wanted to make sure this never happened again,” Simpson said.

The Miami Conservancy District, one of the first major flood control districts in the nation, was formed in 1915.

Contact this blogger at arobinson@DaytonDailyNews.com or Twitter.com/DDNSmartMouth

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