Ten Years Later

When my dad had his workshop in our basement, I was always enamored with a metal sign he had that simply stated:

Flood Level Jan 26, 1937 79.9 feet

The '37 flood is the biggest flood of the Ohio River on record since, well, I'm guessing Noah built his boat. It's rumored that the flood level was actually higher but the statistic was manipulated because there were insurance companies that would have had to pay out if the level reached eighty feet or higher. Not only was the flood cataclysmic, it took place in the middle of winter and freezing temperatures. Here's what it looked like:

With the advent of dams along the Ohio, I never thought my eyes would witness this kind of disaster. But ten years ago the river flooded again; it was an incredible display of how a little extra precipitation can do a lot of damage.

I was in college and I monitored how news outlets said we were in for some flooding. In early March of 1997 I began to make almost daily trips down to the river to see the waters rise. I had never seen anything like this. It was eerie to walk across the Suspension Bridge and see the river just a few feet underneath. I watched a guy in a kayak maneuvering through the parking lots underneath Riverfront Stadium. The river was almost double its normal width. Here's what it looked like then:

I still think the craziest scene was Dayton and Bellevue, Kentucky. Dayton had built a floodwall while Bellevue didn't. Here was the result:

The river crested at a little over 64 feet, well short of 1937's record, but still devastating. The city of Falmouth in Kentucky was virtually wiped out. I worked for my dad's company throughout college and we ended up working on some houses upriver in New Richmond that were completely flooded. It was a generational flood. Not sure I'll see it like that ever again.

Living in a river town, you always have to respect the river. And this city surely does.