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RivermenandRiverboats > The Super Flood 1937 ~Paducah~ > The Super Flood 1937 ~Paducah~ Go to subcategory:
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  • Register:11/11/2008 8:17 AM

Date Posted:02/17/2009 11:16 AMCopy HTML

When the last survivor of the super-flood which visited Paducah in 1937 goes to his reward, people will still be talking about the deluge which covered seven-eighths of the West Kentucky capital. Other events may come and go, but the extraordinary waters of that year will stand out in memory like a crowbar in a paper of needles.
For nearly a month, from January 21 through February 15, Paducah suffered more than 50 feet of water.  The all-time  high mark of 60.8 was registered February 2.  Long before that figure was reached the old town clock stopped and business was suspended.  The city was grappling with the greatest disaster in its history. 
Sixty billion tons of water--too great an enemy for human mind to measure, too mighty a force for man to conquer--rolled slowly, relentlessly past Paducah during this memorable period.  The mighty Ohio was on its orgy, whipped to ruthlessness by the many lesser streams that feed it.  In the face of this sea, the populace saw dread and destruction.  The apprehensions were well founded, for within the space of a month the unchained giant wrought approximately $20,000,000 damage. 
Coming close on the heels of a sleet storm from which Paducah was just recovering, the record flood struck the community at a time when it was least prepared.  With the temperature below freezing, more than 32,000 of its 40,000-odd inhabitants made a hurried exit in motor craft, johnboats, canoes, and other means of water travel.  It is remarkable that in this great hegira, fewer than half a dozen lives were lost. 
With hundreds of citizens standing in chilling waters, rescue forces were quickly organized and a systematic life-saving campaign set in motion.  One hundred and twenty workers of the Civilian Conservation Corps stationed at the outskirts of town joined with the Red Cross in rescue.  The American Legion and other agencies manned boats by the score.  Carpenters built two hundred johnboats in a day's time, floating them as fast as volunteer squads appeared on the scene.  Efforts were pooled and no time lost in the greatest job ever undertaken in the city--the salvaging of humanity.  A common bond welded the community into an air-tight unit.
All day the streets were patrolled by cruising parties answering the call of "Help!"  Night was no barrier and frail craft pushed out into the darkness with flashlights agleam and lanterns ablaze.  Coast guard cutters dashed here and there in the desperate battle against the rising tide.  Pleas for quick action came in from every side by the hundreds, by the thousands.  Strong men worked day and night,  their only reward the lasting gratitude of people saved from the leaping waters. Relief boats brought out babes in arms, the sick on cots.  Poor and rich alike, men and women of all colors, fled the overstepping Ohio.

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