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January 26, 1937: Statewide Flood

The greatest volume of water ever known to pass along Ohio’s southern shores flooded all Ohio River communities during the last two weeks of January 1937. Ohio River levels on January 26-27 were the highest known from Gallipolis downstream past Cincinnati. Crests were 20 to 28 feet above flood stage and 4 to 9 feet above previous records. Six to 12 inches of rain fell in Ohio during January 13-25, 1937, totals never before or since experienced over such a large area of Ohio. January 1937 remains as the wettest month ever recorded in Ohio.

The Ohio River crested at 80 feet at Cincinnati on January 26. This was 28 feet over flood stage and 9 feet above the 1884 record. More than 50,000 were homeless, 10% of the city was inundated, water supply was cut, and streetcar service was curtailed. At Portsmouth, it became clear that the flood wall, erected 10 feet above flood stage, would be topped by the rising river. City officials deliberately opened the flood gates and allowed river water to flood the business district 8 to 10 feet deep, thus preventing a catastrophic breaching of the flood wall. The Ohio River eventually crested 14 feet over the top of the floodwall. The death toll of 10 was remarkably low for such a devastating flood and contrasts sharply with the 467 killed in the floods of March 1913.


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