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COLUMN

News-Sentinel's Flood of the Century project puts disaster in historical perspective

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 12:01 am

One hundred years ago this week, Fort Wayne suffered through the worst flood in its history – one that left seven of its people dead.

Wednesday and Thursday, The News-Sentinel commemorates that catastrophe in print and online with features, facts, figures and photos that will help us all realize the gravity of the disaster and the efforts of our community to recover.

The great Flood of 1913 was more far-reaching than just Fort Wayne, submerging cities throughout Indiana and Ohio with waters from two heavy rainstorms.

The first rains hit on Good Friday, March 21, 1913, in a storm with 60 mph winds that ripped roofs off buildings, toppled chimneys and uprooted trees. The flooding occurred March 23-27 with another downpour March 24 swelling the rivers to such a height that by March 25, 2,000 homes were under water.

On Easter Sunday, March 23, the river downtown stood at 6.7 feet. The next morning, water had risen to 19.6 feet. The crest of the flood March 26 showed the Maumee River at 26.1 feet, more than 11 feet above flood stage.

By the time the floodwaters of the St. Joseph, St. Marys and Maumee rivers receded from their record highs the last week of March, 5,500 homes and businesses were damaged by water at a cost of $4.8 million in damages and 15,000 people were left homeless. Worst, as recounted in previous News-Sentinel accounts, “four orphan girls drowned in an ill-fated attempt to take them to dry ground; one man drowned and another died rescuing residents from their homes; and a 4-year-old Scottish boy was swept away from his mother to a watery death in the swollen Spy Run Creek.”

The News-Sentinel will recount some of the stories, review some of the names and numbers, and try to put the devastation into perspective with special help from an amazing collection of photographs we've gathered from the coverage of the day. Be sure to check out our complete package commemorating the Flood of 1913 at news-sentinel.com.

Kerry Hubartt is editor of The News-Sentinel.