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The Great Flood of 1913

In March 1913, the citizens of the Miami Valley witnessed a natural disaster unparalleled in the region's history. Within a three-day period, eight to 11 inches of rain fell throughout the Great Miami River Watershed. This rainfall, coupled ground already saturated from the melting of snow and ice of a hard winter, produced more than 90-percent runoff, and caused the Great Miami River and its tributary streams to overflow. Every city along the river was inundated with floodwaters. 

More than 360 people lost their lives. Property damage exceeded $100 million (that’s more than $2 billion in today’s economy). The amount of water that passed through the river channel in Dayton equaled the amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls in a four-day period. 

In the wake of the tragedy, the citizens of the Miami Valley — who had lost virtually everything — rallied to initiate plans for the prevention of future flooding. Some 23,000 citizens contributed more than $2 million to begin a comprehensive flood protection program on a valley-wide basis.



To accomplish this feat, Arthur Morgan, an engineer based in Memphis, Tennessee, was hired in May of 1913 to develop a regional flood protection system. The system would protect the cities along the Great Miami River from persistent flooding. The problem with the regional concept, however, was there was no legal mechanism that allowed for its formation until a Dayton attorney and Governor Cox, who was from Dayton, took matters into their own hands.

Read about The Conservancy Act.

The Great Flood of 1913
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