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.
“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.”
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
Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.