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Sandusky River Floods Title
Sandusky County Floods1847 Fremont Flood1883 Fremont Flood1883 Fremont Flood - Lucy E. Keeler Recollections1883 Fremont Flood from R.B.Hayes Diary1883 Bellevue FloodBellevue Sinkholes1913 Fremont Flood
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Sandusky River

Floods in Sandusky County

Flooding of the Sandusky River is mentioned in published documents from the early years of settlement in northwest Ohio. The flood of 1913 caused the most damage (after 7.2 inches of rain in 4 days), with 1959 ranked second (there were two floods that year, in January and February, three weeks apart), and 1883 ranked third (first-hand accounts of the 1883 flood call it the worst since settlement of the area). Other floods occurred in 1821, 1847, 1860, 1863, 1879, 1884, 1904, 1910, 1912, 1937, and 1963. In many of these years, other rivers in Ohio flooded as well; for example, the 1883 flood set records at Cincinnati, and affected even towns such as Bellevue, Ohio, which has no river running through it.

In Fremont, Ohio, during the 1913 flood, 550 homes were flooded, and 50 were completely destroyed. The city police and fire departments monitored river conditions, warned residents to evacuate the area, and rescued people from homes and businesses. Help came from the local Company K, 6th O.V.I. of the Ohio National Guard, and after several days, further assistance was requested and received from Battery B of Toledo and from Cleveland's Troop A. Chambers of Commerce in several Ohio cities and even Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, sent aid. The New York Central Railroad assisted with communications, after long distance telephones went out. Relief was also received from the state of Ohio and the Red Cross. Churches and other organizations, such as the Elks, provided food and shelter. School rooms became temporary shelter for the sick when the hospital reached capacity. First-hand accounts give more details of the rescue work. One estimate lists property damage (including residences, businesses, the Ballville dam, county roads and bridges, etc.) at well over $1 million. Three persons died in the flood, one of them after rescuing hundreds of other people. A few miles upriver, in Tiffin, Ohio, during the same flood, 500 homes were damaged and 19 lives lost.

The flooding of 1959 began in January with heavy rain and temperatures in the 50's, followed by extreme cold which formed ice jams in the flooded river. On January 24 the water crested at 17.2 feet and the ice lasted for three weeks. On February 10 there was more heavy rain…this time the river rose to 18 feet. In these twin floods, 700 residences and 225 businesses were affected, and 1,650 persons were evacuated from their homes. The Northern Ohio Sugar Company suffered the largest single loss. Damage from this flood emphasized the need for a flood control project.

President Rutherford B. Hayes described the 1883 flood in his diary: "No such flood was ever seen here before. The water filled the valley from bluff to bluff. It ran two to four feet the whole length of Water Street, and drove from their homes perhaps one to three hundred families. Men in skiffs were at work all day Sunday, rescuing people." Hayes also wrote about the 1847 flood, in a letter to his sister.
For more information, see the following:
1847 Fremont Flood
1883 Fremont Flood
1883 Fremont Flood and the L. S. & M. S. Railway
R.B.Hayes Diary Excerpt Feb.4 & 5, 1883

Rivers change their courses over the years, due both to natural causes, such as erosion and flooding, and to interference by human activity. One example of such interference is the Ballville Dam, built in 1912 to hold back the Sandusky River and harness its waterpower to convert it to electrical power. The flood of 1913 washed out the foundation of the dam, the wall broke and the buildings were swept away. Immediately following the 1913 flood, the possibility of preventing such floods in the future was discussed, but the solution did not come quickly. Nearly 50 years later, in 1962, Congress authorized a flood control project, and funds were appropriated in 1964. In 1972 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed construction of a floodwall in downtown Fremont, to prevent future flooding of the city. The project included channel widening, deepening, and straightening, and covered about 15,000 feet of the river's length. It provided 18,300 feet of levees and 3,500 feet of flood walls, and the cost was $8.5 million, according to the Fremont News-Messenger, December 8, 1992. A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report in 1992 estimated that the flood control project had saved approximately $10,684,000 in the twenty years since completion of the project.

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