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A Titanic Terror
On Tuesday morning, March 25, at just past seven the levee located behind the Legler property on Webster Street broke, admitting the combined flows of Wolf Creek and the Great Miami, Mad and Stillwater Rivers. The break was a small one, but large enough to cause onlookers to panic and run toward the center of downtown Dayton’s business district for safety.
It was the worst possible thing they could have done.
The Webster Street levee ultimately burst wide open, and water rushed into the center of town. Barely 10 minutes later, water five feet deep at Third and Main Streets made onlookers desperate to save themselves, sending them scurrying into office buildings. Eight a.m. saw river levees breeching nearly everywhere and water sweeping away houses and factories, smashing them to pieces … and taking the lives of innocent, unsuspecting men, women and children.
One of the two Dayton Power and Light Company service employees I mentioned previously later discovered that a colleague of his at the first rush of flood water had manage to jump on top of a box that had held an upright piano. The rush of water had started the box moving and transported his colleague down Fourth Street to Jefferson Street and down Jefferson to the railroad crossing where he managed to wade out to safety.
Even had it been implemented, the proposed 1912 flood control plan to handle a floodwater volume of 90,000 cubic‑feet‑per‑second would have been of no help whatsoever. The floodwater volume of the 1913 flood had a volume of 250,000 cubic‑feet‑per‑second and water 10 to 14 feet deep flowing at speeds of between 15 and 20 miles per hour!
The tremendous force and power of the flood water in Dayton exceeded belief, lifting trolley cars as much as 10 feet off their tracks, slamming large limousines and touring cars into lampposts and twisting others into scrap. It even succeeded in winding a 22‑foot-long steel motorboat around a lamppost. Tightly.
The flood water stranded thousands in attics or on rooftops. In desperation others crawled from pole to pole on telegraph and telephone cables above flood waters that ended not only human life, but also the lives of more than 1,400 horses and 2,000 other animals.