Ohio Flood of 1913

From the Chillicothe Gazette, March 15, 2013

The link is here:

http://www.chillicothegazette.com/article/20130316/NEWS01/303160001/Public-largely-has-forgotten-Ohio-s-Flood-1913

Public largely has forgotten Ohio’s Flood of 1913

Written by Russ Zimmer CentralOhio.com

By any measurement, the Flood of 1913 was the most significant catastrophe in Ohio’s history. One that left an indelible mark on transportation infrastructure, humanitarian missions and, of course, flood planning.

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This image was taken during the Flood of 1913 on Seventh Street in Chillicothe.

Forty-two percent of Dayton was underwater. The water was 17 feet deep in parts of Columbus. Five hundred bridges were washed away. Ohio was changed forever.

However, outside of Dayton, there isn’t much talk about the week of March 23, 1913, when at least 600 people died, 250,000 people were left homeless, and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage (billions in today’s dollars) was wrought, according to the Silver Jackets, a collective of local, state and federal agencies involved in flood planning and response.

“This event was so historic, but it really has slipped through the public consciousness,” said Sarah Jamison, National Weather Service hydrologist. “If you think about the scale of this event, it was a (Hurricane) Katrina or a (Hurricane) Sandy.”

Eight to 12 inches of rain fell across the state starting on March 23, Easter Sunday, and ending midday March 27. Data from the NWS says a typical March in Ohio has 2.5 to 4 inches of precipitation. Ohio seemed star-crossed as pretty much everything that could have gone wrong did, starting March 21, Good Friday, when a strong windstorm swept through with hurricane-force winds in the north and sustained winds up to 40 mph elsewhere in the state.

“That knocked out power lines and telephone lines,” said Jamison, who works at the Cleveland NWS station. “There was no way of relaying information once the flooding started (Sunday).”

Before it was all over, not a single river in Ohio remained contained within its banks and no corner of the state was immune from the effects of the flood.

“In the case of 1913, it was pretty much the entire state of Ohio,” said Julie Reed, a hydrologist at the Wilmington NWS office. “It remains to date the single most deadly and devastating disaster in Ohio history.”

In the old parlance, Jamison said the series of storms that caused the 1913 flood would have been called a 500-year or 1,000-year event. Spearheaded by Daytonians, plans quickly took off to make sure Ohio would be as ready as it could be for the next one.

Within a year of the flood waters receding, Dayton had developed a plan to build large reservoirs that would capture excessive rainwater, but officials found they didn’t have the legal authority to construct flood-control structures. The Ohio Conservancy Act was approved in February 1914 and the Miami Conservancy District was born a year later. (One in Kenton with a much smaller footprint was established first.)

Today, there are 20 conservancy districts in Ohio, including the massive Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, which encompasses about 20 percent of the state. Its dams and reservoirs have been tested many times since its first dam was built in 1935, but perhaps not more so than during flooding in January 2005, when 8 inches of rain fell in a 10-day period

The pools at seven of the 16 dams in the district set record highs, according to district spokesman Darrin Lautenschleger, and there was some flooding in the easement areas behind the dams.

“However, the system operated exactly as it was designed, as there were no significant reports of property damage and, most importantly, there was no loss of life reported from this event,” he said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates property owners were spared $400 million in damage from that flood and a total of $10.4 billion through the history of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District.

Flood planning today, however, is geared more toward “keeping people away from the floods instead of floods away from people,” said Alicia Silverio, a senior environmental specialist at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Silverio provides guidance on floodplain management to local governments.

“We have so many communities where their downtowns have rivers running through them,” Silverio said. “They knew areas like that were flood prone. They were low-lying and next to channels, but it was a risk they had to take, to be close to those waterways.”

Ideally, land inside what the federal government has identified as the 1 percent floodplain — areas that have a 1 in 100 annual chance of flooding — would be used for open space, picnic areas and ball fields.

The reality is much different for many cities, which were designed around water access for commercial uses, so it becomes about mitigating the damage to new structures. As development increases, so does the flood risk, Silverio said, because more parking lots, roofs and other impervious surfaces means less ground to soak up rainfall.

“Flooding is going to happen,” Silverio said. “It’s when we have people and development in the way of that flood that it becomes a problem.”

The scope of the post-flood transformation was not limited to just flood control, or even to just Ohio and Indiana, the two most deluged states. That makes its relatively small place in history all the more puzzling, said Trudy Bell, a veteran science journalist and author of several stories on the flood.

Bell is crisscrossing the region and giving talks about the catastrophe, but she said the attention the event is getting now wasn’t there in 2012 and probably won’t be there in 2014. Leave the Miami Valley and talking about 1913 flood might bring a lot of blank stares, despite its many legacies, she said.

For example, the American Red Cross, which was chartered by Congress in the preceding decade, cut its teeth in the flood, she said.

“The experience they gained through handling that broad of an area prepared them for handling all the casualties on the battlefield of World War I,” Bell said.

The United Way sprung from the model of federated giving — donating to an umbrella charity organization — that was pioneered by “community chests,” the first of which was established in Cleveland in 1913 as a response to the flood.

Bell said that what now are known as Rotary International clubs transformed from primarily business groups to community service clubs when they reacted to the flood with their first cooperative humanitarian response.

Radio, a relatively new technology at the time, became an integral tool in future disaster responses, as amateur operators at Ohio State University helped relay information to family members searching for their relatives, she said.

Bridges subsequently were built with their piers farther up the banks of the river or creek and with higher spans. Many bridges acted as dams in 1913 when debris became trapped against their pillars and decks, causing water to back up and then spill out in unintended places, Bell said.

Before the flood, there was an extensive system of canals in Ohio, she said. Goods on their way from New York City to the Gulf of Mexico would travel via canal from Lake Erie to the Ohio River at Portsmouth. Parts of the canals, whose owners were already feeling the pinch of competition from railroads, were intentionally destroyed during the flood and the system was completely abandoned for commercial purposes.

“Seldom can you say a canal era ended at one particular moment, but in this case I’m pretty sure if was either (that) Tuesday or Wednesday,” she said.

Experts: Weather conditions that created 1913 flood are rare

Climate change takes weather to the extremes, but it’s unclear if rising temperatures raise the odds of a repeat of the 1913 flood, Ohio’s state climatologist said.

Global warming is responsible for periods of prolonged drought, but also the increase in intense bursts of rain, he said. In recent years, we’ve seen both of those in Ohio.

“What the scientific evidence seems to be showing is that with global warming, we are getting more frequent high-rainfall events in Ohio,” said Jeff Rogers, a geography professor at Ohio State University and the state’s climatologist. “In Ohio and other parts of the Midwest, we’ve seen an increase in days with 1 inch or more of rainfall.”

However, that type of weather leads to flash floods and doesn’t describe what happened March 23 through March 27, 1913.

The Flood of 1913 wasn’t caused by one massive storm, such as a hurricane, but by a series of low-pressure systems from the Rocky Mountains that were stalled over Ohio and Indiana by an unusually immobile high-pressure system sitting on the East Coast, according to hydrologists with the National Weather Service in Ohio.

“We don’t know very much about what the role of global warming actually is in causing weather systems to stall,” Rogers said.

On Easter Sunday 1913, temperatures climbed from near freezing up to above 70 degrees. Winds from the south pushed warm, humid air from the Gulf of Mexico into the mix, providing an ample source of moisture to feed the storm. The entire state was soaked, not just one basin, which meant there was no relief to be found anywhere.

Sarah Jamison, a hydrologist at Cleveland office of the NWS, said the meteorological circumstances that caused the flood are rare.

“The rarity of those storms from a rainfall perspective — 6 to 10 inches on average and in some areas as much as a foot — we can get rainfall events like that on a local basis,” she said. “That it was so widespread is what makes this storm unique.”

About the only thing not working against Ohio that week was that the ground wasn’t snow covered or frozen, said Julie Reed, a hydrologist at the Wilmington office of the NWS.

Rogers, who has been the state’s climatologist since 1986, said the pattern of quick and intense storms tied to global warming already has revealed shortcomings in the storm water infrastructure.

“The shorter-term events are pointing toward improved needs for updating sewer systems and storm drainage and when the big events — the real nasty ones — come, it will help us be better prepared for those, too,” he said, “but sometimes you’re just never really ready for it.” 

Stokes Era Comes to An End (Plain Dealer 1.18.1998)

STOKES ERA COMES TO END THE 30-YEAR REPRESENTATIVE ANNOUNCES THAT HE WILL NOT RUN AGAIN ANDREFLECTS ON THE LEGACY OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS HE SHARES WITH HIS BROTHER

Plain Dealer, The (Cleveland, OH) – Sunday, January 18, 1998
Author: TOM BRAZAITIS PLAIN DEALER REPORTER
Rep. Louis Stokes came back to the neighborhood yesterday, surrounded by family, preachers, politicians and old friends, to announce his retirement after 30 years as their man in Washington.Looking out at the overflow crowd of well-wishers at the Carl B. Stokes Social Services Mall, a big building on Woodland Ave. named after his brother, Stokes said he felt comfortable in their company and in the old neighborhood where he and Carl grew up.

Just north, off Central Ave. on E. 69th St., is the yellow shingle house where the Stokes boys spent their earliest years with their widowed mother, Louise. The family was poor. Stokes’ grandmother slept in one bedroom and the boys and their mother slept in the other until Lou was almost 13 and Carl 11. A potbelly stove was the only source of heat.

A few blocks west of the social services mall is the Outh- waite Homes public-housing complex, a labyrinth of identical brick buildings stretching for several blocks. Louise Stokes moved the family there so the boys could have rooms of their own. Lou kept up his paper route in the old neighborhood, commuting on the bicycle his grandmother bought for him.

“This was a tough neighborhood when Carl and I were growing up,” Stokes told the crowd yesterday.

“Still is,” said a voice in back, drawing laughter.

“Many of the boys Carl and I grew up with wound up in the penitentiary or wound up dead,” Stokes went on. “I see the Rev. Lester Galbreath there. He’s one of the lucky ones who escaped. I never did think you would be a minister.”

More laughter.

“Our mama was a strong lady,” Stokes said. “She didn’t have much education – eighth grade. But she believed in education. She drilled that in our heads. … Carl and I strove to get her approval. As much as we accomplished, she never sat down and said, `Oh, that’s great.’ So we kept trying to get her approval, trying to do more. I guess she knew what she was doing.’

Stokes, who will be 73 next month, fought to control his emotions as he rose to speak after Mayor Michael R. White ended his introduction by saying, “Congressman Stokes, we love you.”

Cleveland’s political history – past, present and future – filled the room. Arnold Pinkney and Russell Adrine, who managed Stokes’ first campaign in 1968, were there. So were many of the politicians he has fought with and against over the years, and a younger generation of politicians who look upon Stokes’ retirement as their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win a seat in Congress.

“My decision not to seek a 16th term does not mean that I’m retiring today,” Stokes playfully admonished his eager would-be successors. “My intention is to complete this term. … I have tried to set a standard of excellence. I have tried to represent this district with dignity, excellence and integrity. The district must never accept less.”

Applause punctuated with shouted “amens” answered him.

Loss ended fun of work

Publicly, Stokes gave the usual reasons for retiring: time for new blood, quit while you’re ahead, spend more time with the family, pursue other interests. Privately, he said the fun has gone out of politics for him since his brother died in April 1996.

“As I survey it, I think about the things that Carl and I did politically, what the two of us have been about. We used to talk every day. We could run things by one another. We could think and strategize on political issues. I guess without him here, it really has taken away a lot of what I enjoy about politics. It’s not the same.”

Growing up, it was Lou who set the example for Carl. Lou who went to work first shining shoes, then as a porter at a downtown store, and then found a job for Carl. Lou who went into the Army in World War II, followed by Carl. Lou who came home from service determined to get a college education, prodding Carl to finish high school at age 21 and go to college, too. Lou who got a law degree and coaxed his younger brother into starting a firm together.

“My dream was that Carl and I would establish the top black law firm in America,” Lou said. “Carl had no such idea. He was going to utilize the law for his political career.”

And so he did. While Lou pursued his dream of being a top criminal lawyer, Carl rapidly climbed the ladder of politics, reaching a pinnacle when, in 1967, he became the first black elected mayor of a major American city.

That same year, Lou successfully argued a case titled Terry vs. Ohio, a landmark case setting guidelines on when police can stop and frisk people. Thirty years later, the case stands as one of the most important decisions the U.S. Supreme court has ever handed down.

Escaping brother’s shadow

But people hardly noticed Lou’s achievement. Carl’s election put him on the cover of Time magazine and made him an international celebrity.

Reporting the results of the 21st Congressional District Democratic primary in May 1968, The Plain Dealer’s story began, “Louis Stokes, campaigning on the magic of his brother’s image, swept to a surprisingly strong victory last night. …”

“I realized I had to live with being Carl Stokes’ brother until I could establish my own independent image,” Lou said. “I knew that it would take some time.”

Lou Stokes put in the time, 30 years worth. And somewhere along the way, he is not sure exactly when, people began accepting him on his own terms. Shortly before Carl’s death, it was Lou’s accumulated influence and prominence in the Democratic Party that paved the way for Carl to finish his career as a U.S. ambassador.

“Later on in life, Carl got a bang out of the fact that people would come up to him and ask, `Are you Lou Stokes’ brother?’ Lou recalled, smiling at the memory.

Pondering his political legacy, Stokes said, “When I started this journey, I realized that I was the first black American ever to hold this position in this state. I had to write the book. There was no book. Basically what I said to myself was that I was going to set a standard of excellence that would give any successor something to shoot for.”

Served constituents proudly

Stokes is proud of his constituent service, the bedrock of a successful congressional career. He said his rule was that any constituent who insisted on talking to him on the phone or in person would get the opportunity.

He used his position on the Appropriations Committee, the body that decides how billions of federal tax dollars will be disbursed every year, to bring many millions back to the district, the Cleveland area and the state.

In gratitude, the community has honored Stokes by naming after him a street, a bridge, a rapid-transit station, a middle school auditorium, a Head Start center, a wing of the Cleveland Public Library, a health center at Case Western Reserve University and a telecommunications center at Cuyahoga Community College.

Stokes carved a national reputation by serving as chairman of the Select Committee on Assassinations, which investigated the murders of President Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Twenty years later, no one has been able to refute any of the findings of our committee,” he said proudly.

He earned the respect of his colleagues by taking on the thankless task of heading the Ethics Committee. Under his chairmanship, the committee investigated several scandals, including allegations against fellow congressmen for taking bribes, and for having sex with underage employees of the House. The committee also looked into the finances of Rep. Geraldine Ferraro and her husband when she was running for vice president.

Stokes’ even-handed approach to sensitive investigations led to appointments to the Intelligence Committee, to a special committee investigating the Iran-contra connection and to the team that conducted a congressional inquiry following the U.S. invasion of Grenada.

His conduct in office caused embarrassment only twice – once after Maryland police charged him with drunken driving and he got tangled up in his own words trying to talk his way out of it, and once in the wake of the House bank scandal, when it was revealed he had 551 overdrafts. Neither incident hurt him politically, as he strung together 15 consecutive winning campaigns.

Tireless black activist

Over the years, as Ohio’s delegation was reduced from 24 seats to 19, Stokes’ district expanded to include more and more white suburban constituents in addition to the mostly black East Side of Cleveland. Stokes said he is proud of the way he served all his constituents, no matter their race, and his 85 percent victory in the last election proves people respect him for it.

But he does not apologize for a career that centers on advocating and defending the needs of blacks. “Every ethnic group that hopes to pull themselves into the mainstream of America must have political and economic power,” he said. “My job was to be able to put together political power on their behalf, and I’ve tried to do that.”

The roots of Stokes’ black activism go back to his Army days in the mid-1940s. As an 18-year-old recruit, he spent his tour of duty mostly in the segregated South. Stokes learned first-hand about the two Americas – one white, one black – and dedicated his life to helping merge them.

“I was inducted at Fort Hayes in Columbus,” he said. “I remember my mother telling me, `When you go to Columbus you can’t eat in those restaurants downtown. Don’t you go down there and try to eat. You’ll just get yourself in trouble.’

On the way to Camp Stewart in Georgia, the troop train stopped in Memphis, Tenn. Stokes’ unit, made up entirely of black soldiers, got off the train to eat in a cafeteria.

“All the white soldiers were seated in one place,” Stokes recalled. “In another section close to where the white soldiers were, they had some German prisoners of war. Then on the other side of the German prisoners, they drew a curtain. They put us behind the curtain. I sat there and realized German prisoners of war could sit with white soliders, but here we were, in the same uniform, same country, and we had to sit on the other side of the curtain.”

Stokes was in Seattle preparing to be shipped overseas when the war in Japan ended. He was grateful to go home and resume his life. His heart wasn’t in fighting and possibly dying in an Army that treated him and others of his race like second-class citizens.

After Carl’s election as mayor and Lou’s election to Congress, the brothers formed the 21st Congressional District Caucus, a political organization that went to war against the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, demanding a fair share of political power and patronage for blacks.

In Washington, Stokes was one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, which forced the predominantly white Congress to listen to the needs of its black members and their constituents.

He is proud to be the first black ever elected to Congress from Ohio, yet it galls him that he is still the only black the state has ever sent to the House.

“When I first went to Congress, it was a great honor,” he said. “Thirty years later, to think that this state still has never elected but one black to the United States Congress. …” He named the three black congressmen from Illinois, five or six from California, two from Missouri until the last election. “Even Georgia has two,” he said.

“I don’t think it shows much progress in this state that 30 years later I’m still the only black that’s ever been elected to the United States Congress. I think of it more as a tragedy than an honor. Certainly in this whole state there must be some other black person capable of serving in the Congress.”

Looking ahead

Stokes talked privately about his family dynasty coming to an end and his wish that whoever succeeds him would pursue the same goals. He recalled a recent speech he gave at East Technical High School, where he talked about how he and Carl had educated themselves and worked themselves out of the projects.

“When I finished, a young fellow came up to me and said, `Mr. Stokes, me and my brother live in the projects, and me and my brother are going to be just like you and your brother.’ That really made me feel good,’ the congressman said.

Stokes, who underwent a heart bypass operation in 1996, said he is as healthy and energetic as the day he took office. When his time in Congress is up, he’s thinking about writing a book – maybe two – and lecturing on college campuses.

First, however, there will be the adjustment to everyday life after 30 years as a VIP. No more flying back and forth between Washington and Cleveland every week, sometimes twice a week. No more glad-handing and rubber chicken dinners. No more, “Can I get that for you, Mr. Congressman?”

Jay Stokes, the congressman’s wife of 38 years, said she will be glad to have her man at home.

“But if he intends to spend much time around the house, he better learn to cook,” she said.

Cigarette tax for arts and culture has generated $65 million at halfway point (Plain Dealer 11/5/11)

“Cigarette tax for arts and culture has generated $65 million at halfway point” (Plain Dealer  11/5/11)

The link is here

Cigarette tax for arts and culture has generated $65 million at halfway point


By Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer 
on May 27, 2011 at 8:32 AM, updated May 27, 2011 at 12:10 PM

Since 2006, when Cuyahoga County approved a 10-year cigarette tax to support local arts and culture, more than $65 million has been awarded to 150 arts organizations across the region.

That’s the figure released Thursday by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, the public entity that administers the tax dollars, at the halfway point in the initiative.

“We have long been saying that the arts and culture aren’t just extras,” said Karen Gahl-Mills, the organization’s executive director, in a statement.

“It’s extremely gratifying to have the data now to back up that statement. We’re not just paying for things that are nice to have; we’re investing in the infrastructure of this county and helping to make it the world-class region that we all know it can be.”

Arts groups funded by Cuyahoga Arts and Culture generated more than $280 million in economic activity in 2009, the organization reports, and they employed more than 5,000 staff and contractors.

Since the cigarette-tax funding became available, many of these groups have expanded offerings of cultural activities by 25 percent to almost 24,000 events and classes each year.

Visitors to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo will no longer be able to smoke there if a planned smoking ban takes effect in January

Cuyahoga Arts and Culture reports that attendance at free and paid events is up by seven percent, to more than 7.7 million annual visits.

Arts and education programming for children is up as the result of the cigarette tax, with more than 1 million students attending arts and culture events each year . And after-school and weekend classes and workshops have increased by 103 percent, with tuition for paid classes dropping by 8 percent.

To read Cuyahoga Arts and Culture’s 2010 Report to the Community, go to bluetoad.com/publication/?i=70051.

Carl Stokes and Ralph Locher at Cleveland City Club 7/9/1971

From CSU Special Collections

Incredible audio recording from the last City Club Forum at their 712 Short Vincent Home:  July 9, 1971

First 20:40 minutes is Ralph Locher asking strongly for a unified Cuyahoga County government and then the final 50+ minutes is Carl Stokes, a terrific speaker, letting it all out, after having announced that he would not run for a third term

The tape is here

front_door_of_city_club

The City Club at 712 Shot Vincent (Cleveland Memory)