Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America's Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever

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Overview

The incredible story of a flood of near-biblical proportions-its destruction, its heroes and victims, and how it shaped America's natural-disaster policies for the next century.The storm began March 23, 1913, with a series of tornadoes that killed 150 people and injured 400. Then the freezing rains started and the flooding began. It continued for days. Some people drowned in their attics, others on the roads when the tried to flee. It was the nation's most widespread flood ever — more than 700 people died, ...

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Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America's Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever

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Overview

The incredible story of a flood of near-biblical proportions-its destruction, its heroes and victims, and how it shaped America's natural-disaster policies for the next century.The storm began March 23, 1913, with a series of tornadoes that killed 150 people and injured 400. Then the freezing rains started and the flooding began. It continued for days. Some people drowned in their attics, others on the roads when the tried to flee. It was the nation's most widespread flood ever — more than 700 people died, hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings were destroyed, and millions were left homeless. The destruction extended far beyond the Ohio valley to Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, New York, New Jersey, and Vermont. Fourteen states in all, and every major and minor river east of the Mississippi. In the aftermath, flaws in America's natural disaster response system were exposed, echoing today's outrage over Katrina. People demanded change. Laws were passed, and dams were built. Teams of experts vowed to develop flood control techniques for the region and stop flooding for good. So far those efforts have succeeded. It is estimated that in the Miami Valley alone, nearly 2,000 floods have been prevented, and the same methods have been used as a model for flood control nationwide and around the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his attempt to humanize the Great Flood of 1913, the natural disaster that devastated hundreds of towns in more than a dozen states and claimed over 700 lives, Williams (C.C. Pyle’s Amazing Foot Race) often drifts off course. His narrative, which spans just six spring days, details the myriad forms of destruction visited upon the land by tornadoes, torrential rains, and subsequent floods, and he frequently pauses to flesh out backstories and grisly fates. But his digressions, like the deluge, often go too far afield and oversaturate the tale; Civil War soldiers wander in, Mark Twain makes an appearance, and a veritable ark of circus animals fight to survive. Williams’s style ranges from formal to chatty, and his interweaving of pithy commentary and personal speculation makes it occasionally difficult to parse extensive research and firsthand accounts from Williams’s narrative embellishments. There’s plenty of fascinating ephemera, but Williams’s flood suffers from something folks struggling to stay afloat in 1913 would’ve understood all too well: too much of a good thing. 16 pages of photos. Agent: Laurie Abkemeier, DeFiore and Company. (Feb.)
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Williams chronicles the devastation in a voice reminiscent of Mark Twain, Will Rogers and, especially, James Thurber,
who himself wrote about the panic that engulfed flood victims in "The
Day the Dam Broke." Williams proves a marvelous storyteller; Thurberian wit and whimsy saturate the pages. Williams'
crisp and colorful vernacular offers valuable insights on the causes of the Great Flood, the measures taken to prevent future flood disasters,
and the printed media's irresponsible reporting of the events.”
The Washington Post
Williams meticulously and brilliantly captures the roughly 2,000-mile journey and the larger-than-life characters. The result is a fine, unlikely, and intimate journey into the American past, across the deserts, mountains and plains with heroes bearing wild aspirations long since gone.
Booklist
“Of the major natural catastrophes of the early twentieth century, the Great Flood of 1913 is one of the least remembered. Over several days in March of that year, heavy rains with fierce winds and tornadoes caused severe flooding in 14 states. Before the storm abated, rain turned to snow. Every major river east of the Mississippi rose, many bridges washed away, and fallen telegraph and telephone lines isolated towns and cities in need of outside help. Hundreds of people died between Nebraska and Vermont from drowning,fires, freezing temperatures, accidents, and suicide. Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania were the hardest-hit states. Williams weaves tragic and heroic stories of people in the various affected states into an almost hour-by-hour account of the deadly storm. This quick-reading history published for the storm’s centennial should interest readers who enjoyed Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm about the Galveston hurricane of 1900 or Simon Winchester’s A Crack in the Edge of the World about the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.”
Kirkus Reviews
Deeply researched, personal accounts of the Midwestern natural disaster whose ramifications can be felt today. Journalist Williams (C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America, 2007) offers an eerily prescient work that comes in the wake of another storm of the century, Hurricane Sandy. In mid-March 1913, a series of tornadoes accompanied by a deluge of rain on saturated, thawing ground caused inordinate damage to a swath of Ohio and Indiana, impacting both neighboring states and those as far away as Vermont and New Jersey and leaving approximately 1,000 dead and untold damage to the heartland. Williams has delved into the archives and extracted the stories of survivors and many who perished, tragedies witnessed by many and recorded in newspapers, books and memories passed down. The beginnings could be felt on March 23, in Omaha, Neb., when a twister ripped through town and killed 140 people and destroyed thousands of homes; other tornadoes wreaked havoc from Chicago to Terre Haute, followed by a downpour that swelled the rivers, coursing rapidly through towns. Williams pummels readers with countless anecdotes and pursues the fates of such characters as the Red Cross' national director Ernest P. Bicknell, who scrambled in the field to lend aid, or the young residents of the Allen County Orphans' Home in Fort Wayne, Ind. The author also looks at the lessons taken from the aftermath, such as the work of engineer Arthur E. Morgan, who implemented a revolutionary flood-control system for the region. A well-honed chronicle of a significant national disaster, especially timely following the destruction of Sandy.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“The meticulously researched account covers dramatic rescues, sorrowful endings, dishonest scams and political machinations.Williams builds a convincing argument that we continue to ignore lessons concerning the treatment of our beleaguered planet.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605984049
  • Publisher: Pegasus
  • Publication date: 2/13/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 560,269
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Geoff Williamsis the author ofC.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America.For most of his life, Williams has lived less than an hour away from the Great Flood's epicenter in Dayton, Ohio.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    Quite an eye opener

    A very gifted writer weaves a great deal of documentation into a captivating story. One could forget that you are reading actual history and think you were reading a novel.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2013

    Very good book!

    Very good book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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