E. Bell, M.A,, now considered
the foremost national authority on the Flood of 1913, in describing
the effects of the flood is quoted as saying—
"This mammoth storm system with
its ferocious tornadoes and floods set records for fatalities and
flood heights that still stand today - and which dwarfed both Sandy
and Katrina in geographical extent - created institutions that evolved
into today's United Way, Red Cross, Rotary, IBM, and Cox Communications."
Map of 1913 Flood Plain
Marooned by flood on Park Avenue Niles
Ohio March 26th, 1913.
Credit for photo is given to Kestner & McIntyre
of the 1913 Flood in Niles, Ohio
Newspaper account of 1913 Flood.
Flooding from the four-day rain that
began on Easter, March 23, 1913, however, was unprecedented and
never to be equalled in the century that followed. “It was
attributable solely to an almost unceasing rain of four days and
four nights, something akin to the biblical deluge,” Joseph
Butler wrote in his first-hand account of the event. Although
Mahoning River dwellers were forced to flee their homes, “it
was the industries that suffered worst,” wrote Butler, the
industrialist who founded the Butler Institute of American Art in
“All of these located in the
river valley were put hopelessly out of operation, the water standing
many feet deep in the mill buildings and covering the machinery.”
Immediately after the 1913 flood,
the Ohio Legislature allowed the formation of conservancy districts
and authorized counties to form three-member boards to construct
and maintain flood-control structures.
In the Mahoning Valley, the Lake Milton
dam was completed in 1916, forming the lake that would increase
Youngstown’s industrial water supply and begin the creation
of water-storage capacity to alleviate flooding here.
In the decades that followed, dams
were built to create and regulate the water levels of Berlin, West
Branch, Mosquito and Shenango River Lake reservoirs. Those lakes
became part of a vast U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed network
of water-storage lakes that would reduce downstream flooding, help
maintain consistent river water depths and provide recreational
boating opportunities. Each fall, the Corps reduces water levels
in these lakes to increase their capacity to store snow melt and
spring rains, and thereby reduce downstream flooding.
“It was officially called the
‘reservoir design flood,’” for Berlin, Mosquito
and West Branch, said Werner Loehlein, a hydraulic engineer
with the Corps in Pittsburgh. Those lakes and dams were designed
to withstand a recurrence of the 1913 flood, but with some water
going over the dams’ emergency spillways, he explained.
“From a volume standpoint, it
was a record flood,” Loehlein said. The 1913 flood consisted
of “a bunch of intense rainstorms with short periods of little
or no rain in between,” he added. Over the four days, the
Mahoning Valley got between 7 and 9 inches of rain, Loehlein said,
adding that rainfall averages were 8.8 inches in the west branch
basin of the Mahoning River, 7.15 inches on the river’s main
stem and 8.35 inches along Mosquito Creek, which flows into the
river in Niles. — By PETER H. MILLIKEN
The Gilmore Restaurant and Manhattan
Hotel on South Main Sreet and Water Street during the 1913
Visible are people watching from second
floor windows and standing on the roof. The building is dated 1892.
Looking North, the Gilmore Restaurant
and Manhattan Hotel on South Main Sreet and Water Street during
the 1913 flood.
Main Street looking south from Mill
Street during flood, March 1913.
The Gilmore Restaurant and Manhattan
Hotel are visible on the right of the image.
View of Furnace Street, later State
Street, during 1913 Flood.
A postcard photo from the 1913 flood,
showing Mill Street (now West State Street). The Flory Boarding
House is located in the center rear at the corner of Chestnut
Downtown area during the 1913 Flood.
View is of Water Street, looking east,
with the Manhattan Hotel on the left.