Posted by: Pam Hackbart-Dean | July 19, 2012

Great Flood of 1937

The Special Collections Research Center at Morris Library presents the “75th Anniversary of the 1937 Flood,” an exhibit of photographs commemorating one of the nation’s worst natural disasters. The exhibit opens July 20 and draws upon a collection of 400 photographs taken between January and March 1937, when flooding on the Ohio River inundated cities and towns from Pittsburgh to Cairo. These photographs depict the flood levels and the destruction left behind, as well as a massive clean-up effort organized by the Work Progress Administration. The exhibit also includes images from Valmeyer, Illinois, relocated after the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1993.

“The Great Flood of 1937” left 385 dead, one million homeless, and property losses reaching $500 million. This meant further hardship for a nation still mired in the Great Depression. But the 1937 flood also led to a comprehensive flood control plan. By the early 1940’s, the Army Corps of Engineers had built more than seventy storage reservoirs to reduce Ohio River flood heights. These measures continue to protect communities and farmland today.

The effectiveness of similar flood controls on the Mississippi River was tested once again during the Flood of 1993. Melting snow and torrential rains in the northern Mississippi River Valley resulted in widespread destruction and property losses downstream. The decision to relocate Valmeyer demonstrated the extent of the damage and the limits to what engineering can do to mitigate the effects of flooding on that scale.

Judy Simpson researched and curated this exhibit.

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