Moment of Indiana History

100 Year Flood

When purchasing home insurance one anticipates every contingency, including such events as a “100 Year Flood.” In June 2008, Hoosiers in south-central Indiana learned exactly how formidable that event could be. The state’s hydrologist officially termed the 2008 deluge a “100 Year Flood” when water levels broke records set during the Great Flood of 1913. In both cases, massive flooding occurred when up to 13 inches of rain—the amount of precipitation that normally occurs over a two-month period—fell in the course of twenty-four hours. The torrential downpour of March 23-27, 1913 resulted in a Midwestern flood that made headlines and sold postcards proclaiming “the greatest disaster of modern times.”

Flooding that placed Dayton, Ohio under twenty feet of water is still considered the greatest natural disaster in Ohio history; while in Indiana the devastation was also extensive. Peru, West Indianapolis, Terre Haute, and Muncie were all inundated, as were many other cities and towns along the Wabash, White and Ohio Rivers. Levees were breached, bridges overthrown, and fires raged, while the populations of entire municipalities were displaced. Although the death toll was originally reported in the thousands, later estimates were 500 casualties in Dayton, and 200 across Indiana. The high water mark set in 1913 and surpassed in 2008 has been approached by other significant floods in the meantime, in the years 1937, 1982, 1991 and 2005.

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