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Devastation in Dayton: 100 Years Ago Today


100 years ago today (March 25th, 1913), after a week that saw high winds, falling temperatures and heavy rains, Dayton Police sounded sirens, warning residents of a weakening levee system. Estimates say the river was flowing at an unprecedented 100,000 cubic feet per second.

Soon after, Dayton streets began to flood, and levees on the city’s south side began to fail.  When they gave way, a wall of water rushed through the city, killing more 700 people – 300 in the city of Dayton, and more than 400 in other parts of the state.  1400 horses and some 2000 other domestic animals died in flood.

It took about a year to clean up the devastation downtown, but out of the disaster came a flood control system that changed the world. With more than 2 million dollars raised from the Citizens’ Relief Commission, the city hired Arthur Morgan and a team of 50 engineers to work on the project. Morgan was given full control of the project with the mandate that Dayton never flood again.

As president of the newly formed Miami Conservancy District, Morgan restored the natural course of the Great Miami, removing any homes and business that were in its way, and oversaw the construction of the Germantown, Englewood, Huffman, Taylorsville, and Lockington Dams.  All Five work in concert to control water in heavy rain cycles and keep the city of Dayton from flooding.