More than 100 Ohio communities were left underwater by the March 1913 flood. More than 400 people in the state were killed as a result of the disaster, and nearly 36,000 homes were no longer livable.
The deluge was considered a wake-up call for better flood prevention and mitigation throughout the state as watershed conservation districts were established and flood control dams built.
Flood warning systems have also been developed with stream gauge technology that now plays an important role in providing advance flood warning for many communities, according to Greg Koltun, hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Ohio Water Science Center in Columbus.
"A lot has changed since the 1913 flood. For example, in 1913, the USGS operated one gauging station in Ohio where stream flow was determined," he said. "Now we operate about 223 stream flow and/or stage gauges on streams in Ohio (not including gauges on the Ohio River)."
Koltun said the newest gauges are high-tech devices that provide almost immediate information about current stream and river conditions.
"Almost all gauges today have some form of telemetry (usually by satellite) that allows us to know what is happening with our rivers in near real time," he said. "The telemetered gauge data are picked up by the National Weather Service in addition to the USGS to be used in the flood-forecasting and flood-warning process."
Steps that have been taken to reduce flooding threat since 1913
In the 100 years since the Flood of 1913 there have been great strides in reducing the threat to life and property from floods. Some of these strategies include:
Prevention measures (building, zoning, storm water management, floodplain regulations).
Property protection measures (acquisition, elevation, relocation, flood insurance).
Natural resource protection (wetland protection, erosion/sediment control).
Emergency services (warning programs, disaster response).
Structural projects (dams, levees, channel modifications).
Public information (outreach, technical assistance, education).
Flood Warnings and alerts.
Source: Silver Jackets website mrcc.isws.illinois.edu/1913 flood
That information is also made available over the Internet so that the public, as well as emergency management officials, can make better decisions about the likelihood and potential consequences of flooding, Koltun said.
Long before the flood gauges, the state established watershed conservation districts to develop flood control measures throughout Ohio. The first of those, the Miami Conservancy District, was established in 1915, in direct response to the devastation caused by the 1913 flood.
The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, which covers the Marietta area, was created in June 1933, according to the district's website at www.mwcd.org.
The plan for the MWCD called for construction of 14 dams and reservoirs, all part of a system designed to provide an equitable distribution of flood control and water conservation throughout the basin. The dams and reservoirs would be located in the watersheds of three main tributaries of the Muskingum River, including the Walhonding River, the Tuscarawas River and Wills Creek.
The system of dams and reservoirs was designed to be operated so that the reservoirs could be filled to the height of the spillways in the event of a storm with a total five-day rainfall 36 percent larger than the magnitude of the March 1913 storm.
The 14 dams are owned by the federal government and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in cooperation with the MWCD.
Since the construction of the system of reservoirs and dams, the USACE estimates more than $7 billion worth of potential damage from flooding has been saved in the Muskingum River watershed.