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The Flood

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This past weekend the Ohio river at Cincinnati experienced the worst flood in 20 years, cresting about 60.5’ Sunday afternoon.

Screenshot from http://water.weather.gov

I took these photos last Friday, when the river was just above 57’. Two days later the water would be to the flood wall.

This photo shows one of the gates that is closed during a flood event.

For context, the normal water level for this time of year is somewhere between thirty and forty feet. Sixty feet is a lot of water! Now imagine another twenty feet of water on top of this. THAT’S the record, which happened January 26, 1937 when the Ohio crested a hair under eighty (80!!!) feet. The newspapers from that time are fascinating if, like me, you have a morbid interest in natural disasters.

Yes, you’re reading that right. The Mill Creek made everything better by catching on fire. Pollution is bad, kids.

What’s also interesting is the way these papers reveal aspects of everyday life in the past that I had never considered. For example, I can’t imagine an employer today putting a general notice in the paper as a way to contact their employees.

I also enjoy the examples of opportunistic capitalism, because yes, this WAS the perfect time to run ads for raincoats and galoshes.

This year’s flood, while impressive, didn’t even make it into the top 20 that we have on record. Since 1937 a lot of flood controls have been put into place, such as our floodgate system and the Mill Creek barrier dam that prevents backwater flooding from the Ohio River into the Mill Creek Valley [Link to video of the dam in operation].

This infrastructure was almost entirely built in the 40s, which is fine, nothing to be concerned about, we only need to use it every couple of years.

And lastly because I was wondering how the heck flood stages are calculated (for example, if you look at the gages up and down the Ohio River it varies wildly by location), enjoy this wikipedia article.

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