Interesting Weather This Week and the Great Flood
Interesting and difficult pattern setting up. Tuesday we get rain. Lots of wind energy aloft. Some of that may come down to the ground in the form of gusty winds in a few t’storms. Behind it wrap around moisture working with plunging temperatures will probably produce some snow. Roads could become difficult for the drive to work on Wednesday, though strong winds may lessen the effect through sublimation. We’ll be cold and sunny by Wednesday afternoon but Thursday night, another system approaches. For the past several days it appeared to be mainly a rain event but the latest data indicates that the system may be a tad farther east, which raises the prospects for snow on Friday morning. Stay tuned as we continue to evaluate the data.
On This Date In History: If you remember the photos above, you are probably collecting Social Security. Those photos are from the 1937 flood in Louisville. The top photo is from the Confederate Monument near U of L looking back toward downtown. The lower photo is from 1st and Breckenridge. The 1937 flood is by far the greatest flood event in recorded history on the Ohio River. There really wasn’t much snow but there was bunch of rain in the Ohio Valley basin. As an example, Louisville got 15 inches of rain from the 12th to the 24th of January and 19 inches for the month. The entire Ohio Valley basin received an over abundance of rain. The Ohio River in Louisville crested on January 27, 1937.
On this date in 1937, the water finally began to recede from record levels of over 85 feet on the lower gauge of the McAlpine Lock and just over 52 feet on the upper gauge. The flood stage is 55 feet and 23 feet respectively.
The Falls of the Ohio is the result of a geological rise. There is a fall in the elevation of some 26.5 feet over 2 miles. The rapids were said to be spectacular with one observer in 1811 saying it was “more spectacular than Niagara.” It was said you could hear the roar of the water from miles away. Trouble with this was that when the river was low, it was not navigatable. If you were going down stream, you took your cargo and unloaded it at Louisville and then reloaded on another vessel at Portland. The falls are part of the reason for Louisville’s existence. It was either at the end of 1830 or 1831 that the Louisville and Portland Canal opened up as a way to circumnavigate the falls in times of low water. Later, in 1870, the US Army Corps of Engineers embarked on a canalization of the Ohio River project. It would create over 50 locks and dams along the river to ensure consistent navigation. The final dam was the one at Louisville in 1925, though it has been updated many times. The last was in the 1960′s when they went from a wicker dam to a permanent structure across the entire river.
I want to know if the canalization of the Ohio had any effect on the flood of 1937. It was the greatest flood of 175 years of civilization and evidence suggests that it was the greatest in geologial history. But…there wasn’t a series of dams on the river for all time. The role of the Corps of Engineers, even today, is not for flood control but strictly navigation. The absence of any mention in the NWS report is curious. Would the flood of 1937 been less if the river had been allowed to flow freely and is that the reason why in geologic time there has not been a bigger flood? I dunno and in pragmatic terms I suppose it doesn’t matter. Doesn’t mean I’m not curious.
Here is the link to the NWS site with the report. It’s got some cool picture but the one of the horse hanging in the tree is rather ghoulish.