WFYI Public Television just aired “When Every River Turned Against Us: Lessons from the Great 1913 Flood,” a 30-minute video that documents one of the most widespread disasters in American history, but has largely been forgotten.
On Easter Sunday, March 23, 1913, a torrential, unrelenting downpour began and persisted for days across the nation’s midsection — and ended in a natural disaster of such magnitude and ferocity that even today, more than 100 years later, its devastation has no equal, according to a WFYI press release. The Great 1913 Flood, described as a weapon of mass destruction, was responsible for nearly 1,000 deaths; caused more than $100 billion in damage in 15 states; and brought America’s Crossroads to a virtual standstill. It washed out bridges, roads and railroads, and sent many rivers over their banks. But the video also connects the history of this major flood with current issues and needs for mitigation, streamgage and high water mark data collection, warning/awareness systems, as well as understanding and mapping the risk throughout the nation’s flood hazard areas. As one commentator said in the video about developing in floodplains, “Mother Nature has a way of telling you when you’re getting too close for comfort.”
Some may recognize several people interviewed in the video, like ASFPM member Siavash Beik, with Christopher B. Burke Engineering in Indiana, Scott Morlock, with ASFPM partner USGS, and ASFPM Regional Director Rod Renkenberger with the Maumee River Basin Commission.
The video was produced by Gary Harrison, an Emmy award-winning WFYI Public Television producer, in partnership with the Indiana Silver Jackets emergency readiness coalition and the Polis Center at IUPUI, with assistance from FEMA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Indiana Homeland Security, Indiana Historical Society, U.S. Geological Survey, NOAA, National Weather Service, USDA–NRCS and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.