Ohio River: " . . . .and rising".


" . . . .and rising".
“Ohio River . . . .and rising”.

Jan. 23, 1937 – Ohio River Floods – NBC Red Network – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

This day in 1937 was horrific if you lived anywhere near the Ohio River. Rains continued without stop and flood waters continued to rise. The devastation was widespread and the numbers of homeless were growing by the minute.

In an effort to keep the public informed, that relatively new medium of radio was called on to report the disaster as it was happening and to act as a public service to people in the affected areas.

This was one of the first instances of  on-the-spot reporting done by radio. The speed by which reports and warnings were given probably saved countless lives in the process. And even though the rising waters were knocking some stations off the air, it still provided an essential service and kept the rest of the country informed, and glued to their seats.

Some background on the floods and how severe they were (via Wikipedia):

In January 1937, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, District Engineer, MAJ Bernard Smith dispatched an entire fleet down the Cumberland River for rescue and relief work in response to the severe flooding. The bridges were too low to allow the vessels to pass under, so the vessels were forced to steam across farmland and bridge approaches, dodging telephone and power lines.

The federal government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent thousands of area WPA workers to the affected cities to aid in rescue and recovery. It also sent supplies for food and temporary housing, and millions of dollars in aid after the floodwaters receded.

The scale of the 1937 flood was so unprecedented that civic and industrial groups lobbied national authorities to create a comprehensive plan for flood control. The plan involved creating more than seventy storage reservoirs to reduce Ohio River flood heights. Not fully completed by the Army Corps of Engineers until the early 1940s, the new facilities have drastically reduced flood damages since.

In the 1930s, the Tennessee Valley Authority sought to create a continuous minimum 9-foot (2.7 m) channel along the entirety of the Tennessee River from Paducah to Knoxville. The Authority also sought to help control flooding on the lower Mississippi River, especially in the aftermath of the Ohio River flood of 1937, as research had shown that 4% of the water in the lower Mississippi River originates in the Tennessee River watershed. TVA surveyed the lower part of the river and considered the Aurora Landing site, but eventually settled on the present site at river mile 22.4. The Kentucky Dam project was authorized on May 23, 1938, and construction began July 1, 1938.

Much of the work of the Tennessee Valley Authority in the Tennessee River basin was strongly supported by the majority of the citizens in western Kentucky and their representatives in the United States Congress. U.S. Sen. Alben W. Barkley of Paducah and U.S. Rep. William Gregory from Mayfield and his brother U.S. Rep. Noble Gregory from Mayfield who succeeded him in office strongly supported the funding of TVA and its role in addressing flood control, soil conservation, family relocation, recreation, production of electricity, and economic development.

Just another January 23rd in history, as told by a group of radio stations all along the NBC Radio network as it was happening.

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