Image from GenDisasters
Image from my grandma’s postcard collection
In grad school I wrote a lot about flooding – barely exaggerated accounts of the flood that swamped the grocery store I worked at on my first day there, work about the flood that shut down my town the week I returned from California in the beginning of my final good-try at undergrad, the flood that swept away our family campsite, what floods mean in small river towns, breached coal sludge containment dams, water mud floods floods floods.
Somehow I’d never looked into the town I live in now during the 1913 disaster until a couple weeks ago.
Image from Historical Marietta
The waters were rising at the rate of a foot per hour. Marietta could but await her fate.
All Wednesday night and Thursday business houses and residents in the low lands were engaged in carrying their goods to the second and third floors of their store rooms and residences. There was no check in the rise over Thursday and by Thursday night a wide section of the city had been inundated. Second floors were soon reached, and their contents drenched. Some succeeded in getting their valuables to the third or attic floors. Others secured barges and loaded their goods upon them. But the greater per cent of the residents in the flooded region saved nothing, and were glad to escape with their lives. Every man possessing a boat patroled the streets, rescuing from second and third floors persons who would have suffered sure death but for the efforts of the rescuers.
Finally a wide section of the East end, the Fair grounds district, and the West Side had been practically depopulated. Some went to the homes of their relatives and friends on high ground; others threw themselves upon the mercy of the more fortunate, but all homeless people were cared for.
Meanwhile the waters of both the Muskingum and Ohio rivers continued to rise at a rapid rate, the former stream, fed by waters from the Zanesville watershed, pouring the greater volume of water over the city. Hardly had the Muskingum spent its force than the big rise from the Ohio came. The combined force of the two rivers on Saturday noon brought the situation to a climax, with a stage of 58.7 feet here, as near as could be ascertained. It is thought that the rate of fall will increase greatly over tonight, and that by Wednesday night the waters will have entirely left Front Street.
The work of scrubbing out is on. The relief stations on the East and West sides will continue to take care of the refugees after the waters have returned to their regular course. After that the big problem will be the repairing of, and rebuilding, the homes of the scores in those sections which have fared the worst. A great amount of money will be needed, and there seems to be no question but that the state will respond to the calls for aid.