When you hear about Louisville’s Great Flood, people are talking about the devastating flood of 1937. It rained almost every day that January — nearly 20 inches — putting 70 percent of the city under water. It was the widest and most destructive flood in U.S history at the time.
The photo here shows the aftermath of the flooding – a dead horse lodged high in trees due to flood waters:
More than 150 cities along the Ohio River — then unprotected by levees or floodwalls —were inundated, driving hundreds of thousands from their homes. Hundreds of people died. From Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois, the damage amounted to $8.7 billion in today’s money.
Louisville was the hardest hit, with more than half the population of 308,245 evacuated. Nearly 50,000 homes were flooded, as were 250 of the city’s 350 churches. In today’s money, the damage total was $1.7 billion.
The Great Flood of 1937 sets the record for the highest the Ohio River has ever hit. On January 27, 1937, the water levels reached 52.15 feet at the upper gauge, where flood stage starts at 23 feet. At the lower gauge, it was 85.44 feet, where the flood stage begins at 55 feet.