The Great Flood of 1913
In March 1913, the citizens of the Miami Valley experienced a natural disaster unparalleled in the region’s history. Within a three-day period, nine to 11 inches of rain fell throughout the Great Miami River Watershed. The ground was already saturated from the melting of snow and ice of a hard winter. The ground could absorb little of the rain and it ran off into streams and rivers, causing the Great Miami River and its streams to overflow. Every city along the river was overrun with floodwaters.
Many residents climbed to the second floor and into attics of their homes to escape death from the floodwaters that raced and swirled uncontrollably in freezing temperatures that March. During those long hours waiting for the waters to recede, residents promised one another they never again would allow the Great Miami River to destroy their community.
In the Miami Valley, more than 360 people lost their lives. Property damage exceeded $100 million (that’s more than $2 billion in today’s economy). Despite the tragedy, the citizens of the Miami Valley – who had lost virtually everything – rallied to raise money for a plan to stop flooding once and for all. Some 23,000 citizens contributed more than $2 million to begin a comprehensive flood protection program on a valley-wide basis.
Within weeks of the Great Flood of 1913, community leaders hired engineer Arthur Morgan to develop a regional flood protection system.