Monday, March 25, 2013

Historic Natural Disasters: Then And Now

Then 30th_College_1913
Today 30th_College_Today

This is a guest post courtesy of, a blog started by a group of weekend history bluffs who help share our history through images. This week the blog takes a look at the floods and tornados that erupted during early spring storms that swept across the country's midsection 100 years ago this week, which is in sharp contrast to the late winter storm we experiened today that dumped eight inches of snow or more across parts of Central Indiana. Above are photos taken at the corner of College Avenue and 30th Street in Indianapolis, the first taken this week in March, 1913 during the flood and the second photo showing the streetscape today. The following information on the 1913 natural disasters are provided courtesy of Jeff Satterly:
For Terre Haute, Indiana, just as for much of the midwest, the events of Easter Sunday, March 23, 1913 were just the beginning of what would prove to be a disastrous week. In just 2 1/2 minutes, a tornado plowed through the city that claimed 21 lives, injured 200, and destroyed 300 homes. Along with the twister came a series of mighty storms that flooded a vast area of Indiana.
In Brookville, which sits at the junction of the East and West forks of the White Water River, the flood waters killed 16 people and destroyed 6 bridges, a railway station, and a paper mill. The river rose so high in Brookeville that the bridges over it actually acted as dams, slowing the raging waters. When the bridges eventually collapsed from the pressure they released a tidal wave that traveled over 11 miles.
One town in the water surge’s path was Cedar Grove, six and half miles downstream from Brookeville, which was completely destroyed by the flood waters. After Cedar Grove, the waters moved on another 5 miles to New Trenton where it took out a vast majority of its plants and factories.
On March 25th, the levees holding the waters of the St. Joseph River back from the streets of Fort Wayne were the next to break, filling the city with water so rapidly virtually no one was able to reach safety. The next day the levees in Indianapolis also began to fail under the pressure, filling some parts of the city with 30 feet of river water. As the storms and flood waters moved east they hit Lawrence, which had had two days to strengthen their levees after being warned of the impending disaster. Unfortunately their efforts were in vain, as the waters quickly broke both levees and hit the city so hard that it carried houses and factories right off their foundations.
In all, Indiana was among the states most affected by this week of disasters that swept the country 1913, along with Ohio and Nebraska. The walls of water that surged down the rivers took out over 180 bridges, crippling infrastructure and transportation for weeks, and in total some 90 citizens of Indiana lost their lives during the flooding, and thousands became homeless overnight.

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