The Great Flood
, as it is called, mainly took place over the course of week and caused unimaginable amounts of damage
to property and the deaths of hundreds. Primarily concentrated along the "river towns", It gained notoriety by the wake of
destruction if left in the city of Dayton
, Ohio. Although is caused significant damage throughout central Indiana, and Southeastern Ohio.
Cities were literally rebuilt from the ground up. The following are the chain of events that describe the event.
March 1913 - Easter Week
It all started innocently enough. Spring thaws, which saturated the basins of the Great Miami, Mad, and Stillwater rivers increased
the water levels throughout central and Southeastern Ohio. Water rising slowly, mild flooding started to occur in the lower areas
around the major river basins. Ohians being veterans of floods, looked on stoically.
They'd seen worse.
March 23rd, 1913 - Easter Sunday
The first of the rains roll through central Indiana and into Central and Southeastern Ohio. On a day where most families would be
out picnicking and celebrating in their Sunday best, most were huddled inside waiting for the rain to stop. It would not stop that
day, nor for nightfall. The rain continued unabated for three solid days and nights throughout Ohio. Still, it did not seem
like much would come of it. Fred Airig, a telegraph operator recorded the following in his journal:
4am Mar 25th,
About this time we had received meager reports from operators north and South of Dayton, that the Miami River had been still was
rising rapidly. At this point(South Dayton), the river already was out of its banks, but as there are no levees here, this was to
be expected... Certainly no general flood is expected.
Just an hour later the rain increased in it's intensity and Fred records that the rain is now causing the water to rise about an inch
every five minutes.
March 25th, 1913 - Tuesday about 6am
Fearing the worst, John H. Patterson, the founder of the National Cash Register Co. (NCR), which was based in Dayton, halts
production of cash registers, and begins the construction of rescue boats. He also starts blowing the company whistles and church bells,
trying to bring attention the potential emergency that may occur.
March 25th, 1913 - Tuesday about one hour later
The Great Miami tops the Monument Ave levee and rushes into downtown Dayton at about 25 miles per hour. Surging through the streets,
the water reaches depths of 10-12 feet in the lower parts of the city in just a few hours. People are forced onto the roofs of their
houses or to the highest point they can find. Some even climb telephone poles. The river current is so strong that it causes gas lines to burst causing fires throughout
the Gem city.
The rain continues to pour in Dayton, and rescuers in boats are now seen trying to help those stuck on the roof. Some people are left
stranded though, without food and with water they are able to catch from the rain. Some unfortunates are stuck for over 50 hours. At night
the cityscape is a disturbing scene. Cold, tired and hungry, residents sit on their roofs, or in shelters a few floors up, watch the water
rush by and listen to the children's cries echo through the night.
Mar 28th, 1913 - Friday evening
The rains stop and the river has begun its slow process of receding. The destruction is immense. Over 190 million dollars
in damage has been done to property in Dayton alone. Over 360 are dead. To the Southeast, whole towns ear virtually washed away. In some cases,
there isn't a single structure that is dated before 1913 any longer. Thousands of families are without homes and no where to go.
It is the worst disaster in Ohio's history.
The one good thing that came of the flood was the formation of the Miami Conservatory District. With funds allocated to it by the state,
it created a series of dry reservoirs throughout Ohio that has prevented future flooding by re-routing the excess water in potential flood situations. It was America's first comprehensive
flood control project that still serves as a model oh flood prevention across the nation today.