Flooding in Perspective

The largest flood this area has seen in the past century happened in 1913. The Ohio River topped out at more than 58 feet, destroying homes and businesses and causing damage in the then-astounding millions of dollars.

Paul Borellie remembers the stories his father told of the devastation.

"People would say, 'what do you remember about the flood'?," said Paul Borrelli, owner of Artcraft Studios. "And I would say, 'the water and how bad it stunk'. There was an odor to that water that always was in your mind."

The years of 1936 and 37 weren't much better. The Ohio River in those years crested at 54 feet, but the devastation was much the same, and in both cases the downtown areas were the city's business district. A major flood meant a major, even if temporary, loss of commerce.

"We had to move out Dils Brothers on Market Street," says retired Parkersburg physician Dr. Robert Crooks, "and I was employed along with my two brothers to move materials from the basement to the first floor."

It was after the late 30’s floods that efforts got under way in Parkersburg to build a floodwall that would hopefully protect the city from future devastating floods, but an even more important effort got underway; one which has mostly spared both cities from similar disasters.

"The dam system has helped greatly," Dr. Crooks says, "and the holding areas along the Muskingum holds back floodwaters and that's one reason we don't have the high water."

The one thing that separates these earlier floods from the one of late last week is that they were more traditional in nature; that is, they were caused by a combination of heavy rains and melting snow.


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