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Flood of 1913 Remembered

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Updated: 3/22/2013 6:00 P.M.

It was not just a Mid-Ohio Valley flood. The record-setting floods in March, 1913 devastated communities throughout the eastern half of the United States, extending from the east coast to the Mississippi River.

"It had effects all the way up to Schenectady, New York, and down the Ohio basin, which empties into the Mississippi waterway," said historian Jim Miracle, "an extent of everything flowing downstream."

When we have area flooding today, we tend to focus on Marietta and Washington County, and communities along the Little Kanawha River in Wood County.

But, with no floodwall at that time, Parkersburg wasn't spared, either. Miracle's great-grandfather was a resident of the then-thriving community of Beechwood, in the Murdoch Avenue area.

"My grandpa talked about seeing one house bobbing. It took both trees, then took the house down the river. We're talking about people losing entire houses and parts of neighborhoods. It was very devastating."

Miracle compares the 1913 flood to the 2004 floods which followed Hurricane Ivan. The floodwall, built several years after a similar devastating flood in 1937, has protected much of Parkersburg from damage due to subsequent floods. But Miracle says there are other factors, including a system of river dams and improved building construction.

"The dam system has gotten a lot better," the Wood County historian said. "We control that runoff a lot easier. Back then, there weren't a lot of things to impede the water, or at least slow it down, so you didn't fill up an area so fast."

No one can guarantee something like this cannot happen again. But there were lessons from the floods of 1913 and 37: lessons which have been learned and, in many cases, prevented devastation.

Flooding also hit several of Ohio's major cities.

Buckeye State officials are using the anniversary encourage Ohioans to prepare for flooding by reviewing their response plans and insurance coverage.

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It has been a long time since we've seen images like those of September, 2004. But flooding from hurricanes like Sandy which have come more recently to the east coast, are a reminder that it can happen anywhere. especially when we live in an area with more than one river.

"We live on two rivers. Flash floods, our river flooding downtown affects all our stores," says Jeff Lauer, Emergency Management Director, Washington County. "That always concerns me. People don't stay involved in the disasters, don't prepare for them."

And that's also true on the West Virginia side of the river. Two rivers run through-and around-Parkersburg. And while the city itself is surrounded by a floodwall, low lying communities in Wood County can be hampered by high water.

In Washington County, people concerned about the rivers' rise don't just have to depend on the river gauge at Marietta. Gauges have more recently been installed along Duck Creek and the Beverly-Waterford area.

But it's still important to be aware. In an era of increasing forms of technology, that's easier than ever.

"There's so many media outlets, and more electronic ways to receive weather events," says Ed Hupp, Emergency Services Director, Wood County. "Most of our emergency events are weather-related, and there are so many outlets to be aware of the weather events."

Being aware is important, but so is being ready, by having an emergency evacuation plan and by having a flood insurance policy for your home or business.

And text alerts on the latest weather emergencies are available through www.thenewscenter.tv


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