Andreas is knocking on the doorstep of Kentucky Dam at this very moment. The cause for this dam has been mentioned in a prior post but not given the detail and respect it deserves. That is why today, the historic 1937 flood will be the topic of today’s post. An event that transformed the Four Rivers Region forever.
It was late January of 1937 and the Ohio River Valley had seen a lot of precipitation. Over 16 inches of rain fell along the Ohio for over 11 days in conjunction with heavy snow in the upper Ohio River Valley. All that water had to go somewhere and it went downstream toward Paducah. Some people like to believe that this flood came out of nowhere but emergency preparations were being made by the Red Cross at the time. However, the water rose at such a quick rate that their emergency response capabilities were hindered. It also did not help the coordination efforts of the Red Cross to have downed electrical lines which made radio, telephone, and telegraph communication useless.
By January 30, 1937, the water levels were over 59 feet high. The flood stage is set at 39 feet. More than 30,000 people were forced to evacuate. The damage was unimaginable at the time. 95% of Paducah was underwater and there are claims of property damages along the Ohio River Valley of over $400 million. While Paducah does not have official reported deaths related to the flood, it is believed that there were some deaths. Deaths attributed mostly to pneumonia (remember that this is happening in a cold January) and electrocution due to the downed electrical lines mentioned earlier.
Once the waters receded and the area was able to clean up from the disaster, Congress looked to the future as to how to prevent another flood of this magnitude from happening again. In 1938, Congress passed the Flood Control Act which called for the construction of structures in the pursuit of better flood control management such as dams, levees, and dikes. One of the structures made was the famous Paducah Flood Wall. The flood wall is 12.25 miles long, 14 feet high, and took 10 years to build. The flood wall is said to be protecting up to $1.2 billion of property in the Paducah area from possible flood damage. It faced its first real test in 2011, when water levels reached 55 feet (just a few feet shy of the levels reached in 1937). The flood wall passed the test with an entire town breathing a large sigh of relief. Andreas will be greeted by this wall once he lands in Paducah. He will also be able to learn even more Paducah history thanks to the gorgeous Dafford Murals painted along the wall which depicts the history of Paducah.