It was this week 77 years ago that the Ohio River began to crest and the flood waters started to recede, marking the end of the flood of 1937. It was single greatest natural disaster in the city's history. Evansville city leaders hope to use part of that tragic past to help lower flood insurance in the future.
The Flood of 1937 was the event that brought Evansville to it's knees before pulling it back up.
"Well the 1937 flood was the benchmark of floods," said Kelley Coures, the Community Development Coordinator for the Department of metropolitan Development. "There were several others like 1884 and 1913 but none had the extent of the 1937 flood."
From the steel mills of Pittsburgh, PA to Evansville's bend in the river, one million people were left homeless and hundreds more died. Property losses as a result of the flooding exceeded $8 billion in today's money. The haunting black-and-white images of Haynies Corner, Washington Avenue to Bosse High School depict much of a city that was bent but not broken.
"There was all of this cooperation going on," Coures said. "I think that's what also focused on attention here during World War II to help all the war material that was created here."
It also led to the creation of a flood map. Scribed on parchment paper, the Boy Scouts penned the extent of the flooding; an event people still talk about.77 years later.
From Goosetown to Jimtown, the east side, west side, the flooding was widespread. It served as a catalyst to today's levee system.
"Evansville has progressed so much since 1937," Coures said. "Trully we have. But a lot of the progress we made in flood control and early warning systems came from that 1937 flood."
The map of that flood stands alone. It may be the only one ever produced, Coures said. But now a copy of it sits in a hard drive on a government server. City officials recently scanned the historic document and uploaded it to a government database that's used to determine flood insurance rates.
"The National Flood Insurance Program is a scoring model," Coures said. "The more information that you have in that scoring model that is a matter of public record, the more points a community gets and the more of a discount it can get on the flood insurance program."
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