Feb. 2, 2012
Seventy-five years ago in January 1937, the Ohio River reached its highest ever flood stage of 74.23 feet flooding nearly two-thirds of Portsmouth and New Boston.
Shawnee State University and the community commemorated this historic event with a week-long series of lectures, demonstrations, exhibits and the showing of the 2002 award-winning documentary film "River Voices: A Portrait of an American River Community" at SSU's Vern Riffe Center for the Arts, directed by Nathan Lorentz and produced by Dr. John Lorentz, SSU professor emeritus of history and associate provost for International Education. The theater was near capacity with residents and guests.
To help commemorate the event, four National Honor Students from Portsmouth High School, Leda Daehler, Caroline Khoury, William Meriwether and Olivia Penn, visited sixth grade classes in schools throughout Scioto County during the month of January.
Organized by Daehler, the students created a thirty-minute presentation that included a four-panel display and a ten-minute PowerPoint presentation. The group taught the sixth grade students about weather patterns that caused between six and 14 inches of rain to fall over the entire Ohio River watershed during December 1936 and much of January 1937.
Panels on the display showed how all the communities along the Ohio River were impacted by devastating flood waters with pictures of the water in downtown Portsmouth as high as the Columbia Theatre marquee.
Other panels included the aftermath of the flood showing how the Army Corps of Engineers built a complex flood control system. Built between 1940 and 1950, this flood control system is still considered one of the best on the Ohio River.
The students' PowerPoint presentation included actual 1937 newsreel footage showing aerial shots of the flooding in Portsmouth; excerpts from the Portsmouth Public Library's Scioto County Memory Project; as well as additional photos, maps, and charts.
"We all learned a lot more about the 1937 flood than we were taught in school," Daehler said. "It was fun researching all of the historical data and photos about the flood and showing them to the students. I think they better understand just how important this flood was to Scioto County and Portsmouth."