How high is the water, mama?

an editorial by Jennifer Sierra

1937 flood view of where Grainger's shop sits now.

1937 flood view of where Grainger’s shop sits now.

My mama called me today to ask in the words of Johnny Cash, “How high is the water, mama?” The answer is 55 feet and rising.

With the rising of the Ohio River and the continued rain and melting snows from towns upriver, it brings a watchful eye from many that live along the river. Ludlow, Kentucky is already having flooding. At what point will there be problems for Covington, Bellevue, Dayton and Newport? What are the chances we will have a repeat of the 1937 flood? As I look out my window at the rising river water, I can’t help but wonder what the risk is for our beloved river cities to become flooded again.

My husband, who is working at the Horseshoe Casino in Louisville, has been watching the water rise all evening as I write this article. The parking lot at the casino is flooding and he has had to move their bus twice to safer ground.

Horseshoe Casino, Louisville, Kentucky 3/13/15   6:00 PM

Horseshoe Casino, Louisville, Kentucky 3/13/15 6:00 PM

Horseshoe Casino, Louisville, Kentucky 3/13/15   11:00 PM

Horseshoe Casino, Louisville, Kentucky 3/13/15 11:00 PM

When the flooding started last weekend at Bellevue Beach Park, I started researching what NOAA was saying about the weather and the potential for flooding in the Ohio River Valley. At the time they said it was very unlikely we would have a minor flooding event much less a major event due to the region being in a drought. Well, we know all too well how wrong the meteorologists can be. But, don’t hit the panic button yet.

In 1937, the rain, sleet and snow had been falling for 18 days straight in the Ohio River Valley. The temperatures had been rising to 50 degrees and the snow had been melting adding to the deluge of falling precipitation. The huge amounts of water had no place else to go except up. The significance of the 1937 flood is that it was so devastating it forced authorities to create a comprehensive plan for flood control. The plan involved reducing Ohio River flood heights by creating more than seventy storage reservoirs. The plan was not fully completed by the Army Corps of Engineers until the early 1940s, but it has drastically reduced flood levels ever since. As we currently face flooding along the Ohio River at levels not seen since 1997, don’t worry too much about the levels getting higher for now. The storage reservoirs have kept major flooding from occurring at the 1937 level and the Army Corps of Engineers remain very strict regarding development along the flood walls and river fronts.

So while the rain keeps falling and you may feel the urge to build an arc, look on the bright side, the meteorologists are calling for a mostly sunny week and Monday will be close to 70 degrees. Just get your canoe ready if you want to take the kids to the park.


1 reply »

  1. Why go back to 1937. What about 1964? What about 1997? Why are there no reports of the flood gates now in process of being put up? Everyone wants to bitch about the city’s administration and claim it’s news? THIS is news.


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