Great Flood of 1913



A house on Maple St. flooding from 6am to 11am.


Nature is sometimes subdued
but seldom extinguished

Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)


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. All together, nearly four trillion gallons of water, an amount equivalent to about thirty days of discharge of water over Niagra Falls, flowed through the Miami Valley during the ensuing flood. 

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. In the pitch black of night, cries for help and the eerie groaning of houses being ripped off of their foundations filled the sky as the waters continued to rise. With no functional telegraph lines, the flood survivors were completely cut off from the outside world. 

Rushing torrentially, the waters swept away bridges, dwellings, and commercial buildings-- and anyone who was in them. It precipitated fires at broken gas mains, which spread when fed by spilled gasoline. In Dayton, a fire erupted at a drug store, consuming nearly two blocks of business buildings. At Hamilton, within two hours the flood swept away three of the four bridges there, and claimed the fourth a few hours later. 

During those long hours waiting for the waters to recede, residents made a promise to one another: Never Again.



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.


A Flood of Memories book - 100 years after the Flood (Free Online Flipbook)
A then-and-now look at the Great Flood of 1913 and the region's recovery