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RivermenandRiverboats > The Super Flood 1937 ~Paducah~ > The Super Flood 1937 ~Paducah~ Go to subcategory:
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Date Posted:02/17/2009 10:57 AMCopy HTML

Meanwhile, many refugees flocked to public centers.  Nearly all the churches were occupied.  More than seven hundred people jammed the McCracken County Court House.  Five hundred people crowded the Tilghman High School building and more than eight hundred guests took lodgment in the eight-story Hotel Irvin Cobb.  Furnace fires were soon extinguished by the maddening waves, leaving the buildings damp and cold, and shivering refugees appealed to passing boatmen to further transportation.  "Go upstairs; we're saving people whose feet are in water!" was the sharp reply.
Most of the refugees were brought out Broadway and Jefferson Street with a four mile current.  Ice choked the lanes and half-submerged automobiles, their tops protruding like the backs of hippopotami, impeded traffic.  More than three thousand automobiles were asleep in the deep.  On reaching a point near Twenty-Eighth Street, the frozen passengers were transferred to small barges, which were hauled out of the water by powerful tractors.  It was a busy scene.
A dock 300 feet long extended into the ice-blocked water on Broadway, where refugees hurriedly passed with a bundle or handbag, the only baggage carried in the flight for life.  Refugees were moved by truck to the Arcadia School, clearing center for the district, more than 22,000 persons registering there in ten days.  Other thousands went out by way of Reidland, the Cairo road, or the first spot that showed dry land.
There was no hysteria, no excitement.  Here was an unprecedented flood; here was potential disaster; but here, too, were Paducah's proud people, calm and confident, fighting an unleashed nature coolly.  They had stood in water, these refugees, caught between aquatic pinchers.  They saw the fearsome river crawling toward their homes and felt its lapping waves at their feet. They were in distress, but they were not complaining.  At last a passing boat picked them up and landed them safely ashore, a mile--two miles--from where they boarded it.
Nerves taut and eyes red with searching, little bands of humanity greeted the refugees each new day with one of the few possessions left to them--hope.  Families had been seperated for days.  Courageously they met the stream of relief boats, as thick as huckleberries in August.  Twins, not more than seven years old, were lifted onto the dock.  They couldn't understand why their mother should burst out crying at the sight of them!
Nearby towns sent a warm welcome to the distressed and also conveyance to prove their sincerity.  Homes in sections adjoining the flood-stricken area had as many as forty guests, eight or nine to a room, most of them sleeping on floors.  Thousands went out of town, doubling the population of communities within a radius of a hundred miles.  Homes were exhausted and public buildings made ready for reception of still more guests.  A wonderful spirit of sympathy and help was shown.
Food was brought into the city caravan-like by trucks.  One canteen in the West End served seven thousand meals a day.  Breakfast alone required twenty-five pounds of coffee, nine dishpans of hominy, forty pounds of pork chops, fifty pounds of bacon, a hundred pounds of dried fruit, ninety dozen eggs, two hundred pounds of potatoes, sixty loaves of bread, and one hundred and twenty-five quarts of milk.
The river was seven miles wide at Paducah.  When it was at its apogee, government authorities estimated 2,000,000 cubic feet of water was passing a given point every second.  The crest, 60.8 feet, was maintained for twenty-two hours before there was any indication of falling.  The high tide seemed endless.
Transgressing its bounds as never before--it was six and a half feet above the 1913 stage,--the Ohio extended itself into the chief residential areas.  A swift current rendered johnboats unmanagable east of Twelfth Street and only the putt-putt of motors could be heard in the downtown section, desolate and forlorn.  It was a dreary picture.
The business district was invaded to a depth of six to ten feet.  Telephone poles and logs came hurtling through the watery lanes, dashing against plateglass windows and smashing them with reckless abandon.  Picked from their moorings, stables and coal sheds, wooden workshops and parts of frame houses, jostled in the waves.  It made one blink to see a mammoth oil tank riding aimlessly with the current.  Floating ice, miles of it, wrought great havoc.  Every store in the downtown section was wrecked and resembled a water-soaked hull, jagged and broken.  A holocaust could scarcely have been more ruinous.  Plate glass losses exceeded $125,000.

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