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 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 some in the Ohio River basin. Also, the ground was pretty hard from having been freezing in many places to the runoff was rapid from a bunch of rain in the Ohio Valley. 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 people of Louisville held their breath in hopes that the river would continue 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. 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.
would seem to me that the low is going to track pretty far to our east so the risk of a big ice storm is minimized somewhat and the biggest snow should be to our east. Having said that, there are two things to remember. First is that there are still several days to go and the low doesn’t even exist yet except in a computer’s dream. It will probably form but the exact track is still up in the air and a deviation of just 100 miles east or west would be a difference between hardly any snow and a whole bunch. As it stands, if it were to come out as currently forecast, then were in the 3-6 inch neighborhood. The other thing to consider is that, while it would not set up as a huge icing situation, this scenario would start out as rain, then go over to sleet before turning to snow. Freezing rain….I wouldn’t be overly concerned at this point because we would have warmed well above freezing by Sunday afternoon. However, rain on top of old snow and ice may be a problem. Anyway…its worth watching. Still thinking mid 30’s on Saturday and the 40’s on Sunday.