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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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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 bu 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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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 bu 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.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    This is the second time I have tried to read this non-fiction book about The Great Flood of 1913, and am sorry to say I only made it to page 45 this time. The stories are a compilation of facts that are confusing with a writing style that jumps all over the place. There are too many books I want to read to spend anymore time here.

  2. 4 out of 5

    kris

    I had never heard about the flood of 1913 prior to opening Washed Away. Here's what I gleaned from this book: in 1913, at the end of March, a front of storms moved through the midwest--namely Ohio and Indiana--and it poured. This led to severe flooding across several states, but most particularly Dayton, Ohio, which was located on some rivers. Hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless, and the fact that the death toll didn't top 400 remains a miraculous mystery. ...If that description s I had never heard about the flood of 1913 prior to opening Washed Away. Here's what I gleaned from this book: in 1913, at the end of March, a front of storms moved through the midwest--namely Ohio and Indiana--and it poured. This led to severe flooding across several states, but most particularly Dayton, Ohio, which was located on some rivers. Hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless, and the fact that the death toll didn't top 400 remains a miraculous mystery. ...If that description seems a bit "light", it's because I found Washed Away to be pretty light on specifics. It was a choppy, jumpy read that hopped from city to city, family to family, and left much of the widespread impact out to pasture. The main issues I had with the book was that it didn't seem to know whether it wanted to be a novel or a non-fiction selection. The tone was at times distinctly inappropriate for the subject, lending itself to a more conversationalist storytelling method. However, the lives lost and saved during the Great Flood were absolutely real, and so the lack of a bibliography or any sort of reference section is appalling. Overall, I'd call Washed Away a decent starter novel; it raises more questions than it answers, but it definitely brings attention to an event that needs to be remembered.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Margie

    I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley. 4 stars for the story, 2 minus stars for the editing. In 1993 much of eastern Nebraska was flooded. Spring ice jams caused a massive amount of flooding, causing a great deal of damage. June was then the sixth wettest month on record. In addition to causing additional flooding, the rain resulted in additional damage to structures that had not yet been repaired. Construction crews were overwhelmed with repairs after the spring floods; many buildings I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley. 4 stars for the story, 2 minus stars for the editing. In 1993 much of eastern Nebraska was flooded. Spring ice jams caused a massive amount of flooding, causing a great deal of damage. June was then the sixth wettest month on record. In addition to causing additional flooding, the rain resulted in additional damage to structures that had not yet been repaired. Construction crews were overwhelmed with repairs after the spring floods; many buildings had not yet been repaired by the time the rains came in June. On July 8 a tornado hit Lincoln. Most residents knew that Indian lore (in the book it's referred to as "Indiana lore") had it that tornadoes couldn't hit Lincoln. Some believed tornadoes couldn't jump the tracks on the north side of town. In any event, it was a bit of a shock. Trees were downed all over town and a number of roofs were torn off. July was then the wettest month on record. It rained every day. Every day. The construction crews were still overwhelmed from the spring floods, so buildings that lost roofs in the tornado then took on a month's worth of rain. I will never forget the smell after the tornado. Tree chippers operated all day. Huge piles of chipped wood, two storeys tall, appeared in school parking lots across the city. Freshly cut wood smells good when you catch a whiff of it periodically. When you have to smell it around the clock for weeks, it becomes sickening. The Great Flood of 1913 makes the '93 Lincoln tornado and flood seem like a picnic in a park by comparison. Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America's Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever is the gripping story of a flood which ravaged many states, sweeping people, buildings, and animals away. It's a horrific story, which Geoff Williams tells pretty well. I thought the story flowed rather well. I would have liked maps of both the total flood (over many states) and also of Dayton, the site of the worst damage. I also would have appreciated a list of major characters. Some people are discussed throughout the book, while many are introduced just before they die, and of course do not reappear in the book. A list of those who do reappear would have helped me to keep track. These are very minor quibbles, though, compared to my complaints about the editing. The run-on sentences make much of the book absolutely incomprehensible. I was absolutely shocked that the publishers would want the book to go out under their imprint in this state. They should be embarrassed. Information on the Nebraska flooding: http://www.dnr.ne.gov/floodplain/PDF_... Information on the Dayton flooding: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Da...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Philip Demare

    This book is all about the great flood of 1913 with personal stories from the cities of the eastern river valleys of Ohio such as Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Akron and Forte Wayne and Indianapolis in Indiana. (Although less extensive mention is given to events in New Castle and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Parkersburg and Wheeling in West Virginia, Rochester in New York, and assorted other smaller towns.) It is sobering to think how often flooding was an occurrence in river valley tow This book is all about the great flood of 1913 with personal stories from the cities of the eastern river valleys of Ohio such as Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Akron and Forte Wayne and Indianapolis in Indiana. (Although less extensive mention is given to events in New Castle and Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, Parkersburg and Wheeling in West Virginia, Rochester in New York, and assorted other smaller towns.) It is sobering to think how often flooding was an occurrence in river valley towns before the advent of dams, locks, and flood control systems in the thirties and forties. Mention is given to previous flood years in 1865,1882 and 1898, as well as subsequent flood years in 1927 and 1937. Rivers who's normal channels were usually measured in hundreds of feet at most could expand in some cases to miles wide. "During this flood, in some places the ohio river was as much as 12 miles wide." p285 Flood stages that today are measured in 20-30 feet were measured then in 40-60s. "In Portsmouth Ohio at the bottom of the state (Ohio), a flood wall had been constructed to protect the city if the Ohio river rose to 62 feet. It crested at 65."p258 There are lots of characters of historical significance. John H Patterson founder of NCR whose business practices got him indicted and convicted in an anti-trust suit of creating a monopoly (p40-45) became the most celebrated hero in Dayton for his relief efforts to save the town and it's people. James Thurber related in a short story called "The Day the Damn Broke" of events in Columbus Ohio that happened when a false rumor spread that a damn had broken and the east side of Columbus was about to be inundated with water. (The west side was under 30 feet of water but on the east side, the flood would have had to climb another 95 feet to reach it. p240 Orville Wright whose home and shop in Dayton were flooded feature as prominently in the narrative. Clark Gable, Carol Lombard, John Dillinger, Vincent Minnelli, and Bob Hope are given brief mention. p222 The narrative hops back and forth between characters and anecdotes on the events as they happened between March 25th through the first days of May 1913. Phones existed although many lines were cut by the flood. There was no television (obviously) but commercial radio did not exist yet either so there was no fast way to warn of the impending disaster in cities and towns. The Titanic had sunk just the year before 1912. Train service, the most common mode of long distance travel in the affected areas, was effectively terminated as then (as today) most train tracks were built along the flooding rivers and one after another bridge collapsed under the torrent of water and the debris they carried rushing down the now greatly enlarged river channels. Many more heartbreaking stories are told including the drowning of the animals in the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus in Peru, Indiana. This story is more about the people affected than a complete history of the event. It is told anecdotally not with a mind toward nailing down detail. I believe this is an advantage, as a complete history would more than likely have bogged down in the details and been boring as a result. I agree with some other reviews that maps of the affected areas and a character list would have greatly assisted the reader in keeping the story straight as the narrative jumps back and forth between various characters and places as it progresses linearly through time. That said, it is a compelling book that's hard to put down that tells the tale of events that we in the east find hard to believe could ever have happened in our region today. If you are a fan of historical non-fiction, I highly recommend it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    A great book on the history of the 1913 flood that devastated Dayton, Oh. and the surrounding areas. I really enjoyed reading it. Re-read 2016 - I still really like this book, it has quite a bit of information that I never learned in school when we were studying about the flood. I also had no clue that the flood was so widespread, for years I only thought it was local flooding. There was actually flooding in multiple states, not just Ohio. I recommend it for those who want to learn more about the A great book on the history of the 1913 flood that devastated Dayton, Oh. and the surrounding areas. I really enjoyed reading it. Re-read 2016 - I still really like this book, it has quite a bit of information that I never learned in school when we were studying about the flood. I also had no clue that the flood was so widespread, for years I only thought it was local flooding. There was actually flooding in multiple states, not just Ohio. I recommend it for those who want to learn more about the impact of the flood since our Ohio/Dayton history classes only focused on our area.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jeanine

    Interesting but not very cohesive.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mortisha Cassavetes

    Since my grandparents survived the Great Flood of 1913, I knew I had to read this book and so glad I did. The book is very informative and reads very well. Made me feel like I was there. I highly recommend it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tim Martin

    This was a decently written account of one of the most devastating floods in United States history, the Great Flood of March 1913, a disaster that drove thousands of families from their homes, destroyed hundreds of businesses and made many thousands homeless, and killed anywhere from several hundred to “probably more like a thousand” people, quite possibly more. The Great Flood of 1913 was often compared at the time to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the sinking of the _Titanic_ in 1912, k This was a decently written account of one of the most devastating floods in United States history, the Great Flood of March 1913, a disaster that drove thousands of families from their homes, destroyed hundreds of businesses and made many thousands homeless, and killed anywhere from several hundred to “probably more like a thousand” people, quite possibly more. The Great Flood of 1913 was often compared at the time to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the sinking of the _Titanic_ in 1912, killing far more Americans than those two disasters combined but those two were perhaps better known (and are still well known while the history of the flood has faded a great deal in the popular consciousness) for a variety of reasons, partially because the earthquake and the sinking of the _Titantic_ were “an easy-to-grasp” narrative and the flood “wasn’t a tidy disaster,” partially because of the scores of books and movies on the earthquake and the _Titanic_ but only a few books on the flood, partially because “the exact death tool of the flood isn’t known and may never be known,” partially because there “have always been floods, and there always will be,” but also because the flood was seen as a local flood by so many for so long in this country, with people in Dayton, Ohio calling it the Great Dayton Food while Columbus, Ohio residents spoke of the Great Columbus Flood, while people in Indianapolis remembered the Indianapolis flood, as “the flood tended to be thought of as a neighborhood event instead of a national narrative.” In reality though Ohio and Indiana were the hardest hit the disaster affected Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, West Virginia, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and if one counts the same storm system Nebraska as well; it was truly a nationwide event. The book invites comparison at least for me with _White Hurricane_ by David G. Brown, a book about the deadly storm that struck the Great Lakes in November 1913, sinking a number of ships and killing quite a few people. Both books dealt with a storm whose duration lasted a number of days, both authors providing some set up to explain what the world was like before the storm hit, how it was and wasn’t prepared, and after the storm and rescue/recovery operations, discussed the legacy of the storm. Also both authors had as the bulk of their book a day by day and hour by hour break down of what was happening to individuals in the storm, jumping from one narrative to another over a very wide geographic area, bouncing back and forth between the struggle of this person or that family to stay alive of this recovery operation or the saga of particular officials about what they can and cannot do. It has the benefit of making the pacing very fast and exciting but also making it difficult to remember all the various characters as it were, that while some groups are memorable others aren’t as much sad to say, or enough other crises are covered that when an earlier one is gotten back to it can be difficult to remember immediately what was going on (but off to the next crisis anyway!). There wasn’t a lot of coverage in the book as to what made such an unusually heavy flood (passing reference to 1913 being an El Nino year and a few pages talking about how though the ground wasn’t frozen, it was “still oversaturated with melted, and melting snow” and the rain “couldn’t evaporate, or be absorbed, fast enough” though there is a contradiction, with at one point the author saying “the ground wasn’t frozen” but a few pages on saying “in the early wet spring after a long cold wet winter, much of the soul throughout the United States, particularly in Ohio and Indiana, was still frozen”). If there was more coverage I missed it or forgot, but then the book isn’t a meteorology book but one of history and it does a good job chronicling the events and responses to the flood. There were a number of pages talking about past floods mostly in the U.S. but also in Europe and the past history of flood control. The Johnstown Flood of 1889 gets a good bit of discussion as well (there were people who had to face both floods). Also though there wasn’t a lot of discussion meteorologically for all the rain, there was a good bit of coverage of why the flood was so bad, focusing on manmade causes (too much of the land was drained and filled, removing “innumerable little storage reservoirs over the surface of the land,” too many trees (with their attendant forest floor of leaves and mold) were removed, also natural reservoirs for excess water, too many buildings and paved streets, reducing water absorption and hastening the flow of water to streams, too many dams which altered streams so that they couldn’t easily deal with massive storm flows, and too much waste in streams and rivers, also changing the flow and capacity of the bodies of water and making them laden with toxins and disease). To my surprise the bulk of the early part of the book was not on the flood but a disaster connected to the same storm system, the Omaha tornado of 1913, an absolutely devastating storm that made for some exciting yet quite grim reading (other tornados also occurred, with over 200 people killed nationwide). After the opening sections on the tornados the book settles into what it is for most of the text, an almost hour by hour account of what happened during the flood, of this family stranded on a roof top, of these people trying to rescue someone in a tree in the middle of a raging and rising river, of these officials trying to get word from areas that were completely cut off (with telegraph and telephones relatively new systems, they were rather easily disrupted during a major storm, with even railroads not able to reach areas because of washed out bridges and tracks). Much of the flood’s coverage is devoted to Dayton, Ohio (particularly the rather gripping story of how John Henry Patterson, founder and head of the National Cash Register Company out of Dayton, ended up essentially saving the town, the mayor even basically saying Patterson was in charge despite the fact that Patterson was facing possible prison from some business shenanigans; the author was quite good at making Patterson’s saga interesting on a personal interest level) but Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana among other places get a love of coverage as well. Other interesting narratives followed include what happened to the Wallace-Hagenbeck Circus (which had a number of big cats and all of its elephants escape into the flood), the saga of various telephone operators in Dayton and in Columbus (heroic in their efforts to maintain communications), of the poor Hostler family of Tiffin, Ohio, trapped in their home, standing on furniture placed on beds of the second floor of their house (lighting the occasional match to let neighbors know they still lived), the rivalry and sometimes comradeship between two competing reporters trying to cover the flood (reporters Ben Hecht and Chris Hagerty), the saga of the “Afternoon of the Great Run” (a sad tale of a panic of the non-flood that residents feared was occurring), and many more stories. Some of the events or subjects covered were well after the flood, such as a 2011 entry about Charles Otterbein Adams, Jr., a flood survivor who was 97 years old when he passed away in 2011. There was also some comparison with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There were a number of famous people mentioned in passing that were caught in the flood, such as Mary Jane Ward (seven at the time, who became an author, most famous as the author of the book _The Snake Pit_, made into a movie in 1948 starring Olivia de Havilland), Clark Gable (a twelve-year-old living in Cadiz, Ohio), John Dillinger (nine years of age and living in the Indianapolis area), Roy Rogers (two years old, living in Portsmouth, Ohio), Vincente Minnelli (future husband of Judy Garland, father of Liza Minnelli, a ten year old in Delaware, Ohio), and Bob Hope (ten years old and living in Cleveland), but in truth these people only get a few sentences to a paragraph or two of mention. The only celebrity that got a good bit of recurring coverage was Orville Wright, who with his family were forced to flee Dayton and were lucky that the flood didn’t destroy the famed 1903 flyer and everything they owned though it was a very close thing indeed. Positives, the author did a good job humanizing the flood victims and survivors and at times had a novelistic flair in describing the plight of those trying to stay alive and those trying to rescue those stranded, the author also gave a good feel of the vast regional scope of the flood, did a good job of describing why once rain had fallen it was such a bad flood, and had excellent coverage of the Omaha tornado. I have seen at least one reviewer complain there isn’t a well referenced bibliography when it is clear that the author did a lot of research. I am fine as a reader for the list of newspapers and other sources just mentioned by name at the end of the book and throughout the text the author would mention and discuss other books on the great flood. Negatives, sometimes it could get a bit monotonous at times, though it was a dreary, sad monotony of suffering (rescue boats sure turned over a lot, and being on anything floating hitting a bridge is an excellent way to die), sometimes the author’s humor could be a little cornball (though a light tone every now and then was fine with me), and again comparing it to _White Hurricane_, I would have liked a bit more meteorological discussions and a better feel for nationwide impact of the storm (_White Hurricane_ for instance went into great detail about how that storm affected the science and policies behind a national weather service). Pacing was really good though and the book had a great feel of place in describing the areas affected by the flood.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Hill

    As Hurricane Florence has ravaged the Carolinas this week, this book has been on my mind. This was a fascinating story for me as my family hails from north of Dayton and down near Portsmouth OH. Unfortunately, I was unable to ask my grandparents about their experiences during this event. While they weren't directly impacted, my grandfather assisted in building the dams that now protect Dayton. I had a hard time matching the Author's description of the Mad River and the flooding of North of Dayto As Hurricane Florence has ravaged the Carolinas this week, this book has been on my mind. This was a fascinating story for me as my family hails from north of Dayton and down near Portsmouth OH. Unfortunately, I was unable to ask my grandparents about their experiences during this event. While they weren't directly impacted, my grandfather assisted in building the dams that now protect Dayton. I had a hard time matching the Author's description of the Mad River and the flooding of North of Dayton with the slow, quiet river I have fished in for trout.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Doug Bivens

    Very informative. I came across this 1 on a hunt for new history books to try(im a history buff though some areas of history do grab me more than others). Prior to reading this 1, I had no idea this disaster had even happened much less to what scale it affected the communities involved as well as the country as a whole.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Leah K

    Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America’s Most Widespread Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed it Forever by Geoff Williams 356 pages ★★★ In 1913, tornadoes and rain would cause terrible flooding throughout Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and many other surrounding areas. When it was all said and done, over 700 people were dead, many injured and homeless. It would lead to new laws and safety measures at the time, still used today (some more successfully than others). This book is the story Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America’s Most Widespread Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed it Forever by Geoff Williams 356 pages ★★★ In 1913, tornadoes and rain would cause terrible flooding throughout Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and many other surrounding areas. When it was all said and done, over 700 people were dead, many injured and homeless. It would lead to new laws and safety measures at the time, still used today (some more successfully than others). This book is the story of those people that had to deal with the destruction that came through their lives – some would survive, others wouldn’t be so lucky. I’m sorta morbid. The more death and destruction, the more likely I am to want to read about it. Obviously I’m not alone or there wouldn’t be so many books of its kind. So where does this book land in all I have read? Middle ground. It was an interesting subject, one now forgotten in history but one that made a huge difference up to present time. It did seem to jump around quite a bit. He may mention someone and then get back to their story after dozens of other people and stories have been told. It had a tendency to be repetitive in parts. It bugged me that there was no bibliography. It is obvious he did a lot of research but the fact that except for a few mentions of sources in the writing and a small acknowledgement, there is no proof of this research and I felt like it deserved much more attention. I know I’m nitpicking. On the plus side, I did find the author’s style interesting. The breaking up of time, a step-by-step of events and the close-up of the people kept me reading. The author also has a humorous, sarcastic streak which I found here and there that amused me. Not bad but glad I picked it up from the library.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Rupert

    What a terrible flood the 1913 flood was. So many states involved, so many lives lost, so much property damage. You could go on and on. So many things amazed me, not the least being the hardiness of the people. The book was well written with more facts than any one person could keep in his/her head. I regret that I read it as an e-book. Hard copy would have made it easier to follow as the books skips around from city to city and state to state. I live in Southern Ohio on the Ohio River. I was so What a terrible flood the 1913 flood was. So many states involved, so many lives lost, so much property damage. You could go on and on. So many things amazed me, not the least being the hardiness of the people. The book was well written with more facts than any one person could keep in his/her head. I regret that I read it as an e-book. Hard copy would have made it easier to follow as the books skips around from city to city and state to state. I live in Southern Ohio on the Ohio River. I was so surprised to read how many people possessed boats during that time. So many interesting things to learn about the cities, states, and people. A splendid book about a horrifying incident.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Terribly written and in desperate need of a good, honest editor. Very little history and a lot of speculation about what the people were thinking, even about what they "may or may not have done", with rabbit trails about the romanticism of drowning and swimming requirements of American colleges in the early 1900s. Yes, seriously. I made it to page 41 before giving up. Terribly written and in desperate need of a good, honest editor. Very little history and a lot of speculation about what the people were thinking, even about what they "may or may not have done", with rabbit trails about the romanticism of drowning and swimming requirements of American colleges in the early 1900s. Yes, seriously. I made it to page 41 before giving up.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Missy

    This book reads much like a novel…very enjoyable! Not only do you get to learn a play by play, and day by day account of the Great Flood of 1913, which I had never even heard of before, and the many experiences of individuals, but this author put in the effort to do EXTRA research from Census records, and Ancestry.com, on many of the people and families mentioned so you actually know a little something more about them. Although there are no sources specifically referencing every fact he represen This book reads much like a novel…very enjoyable! Not only do you get to learn a play by play, and day by day account of the Great Flood of 1913, which I had never even heard of before, and the many experiences of individuals, but this author put in the effort to do EXTRA research from Census records, and Ancestry.com, on many of the people and families mentioned so you actually know a little something more about them. Although there are no sources specifically referencing every fact he represents, he does point out at the end of the book that he scoured the newspapers, focusing on the dates from March 23-27, but also looked beyond, into April and May of 1913 for the writing of this book. He does list all of the newspapers he collected information from in the last chapter, in Notes and Research and Acknowledgments. He has also collected information from a few books that had been written on the Great Flood of 1913 (just Google it and now many books will pop up), and from magazines and websites. He is from the area, so was able to visit most of the critical areas, especially Dayton, Ohio, where flood waters reached upwards of 25 feet, to get a feel for the depth of the flooding and even interviewed a few descendants of the victims. I love that he did all the hard work and collected the information for us from so many newspapers to tell the story of this great historical event. If one is serious about finding and verifying particular facts, it can actually be done with a little effort. This book is a genealogist’s dream book. If you have family or ancestors from the area, I would definitely check into this source. He does have a complete alphabetical name index. And behind the index of names, he has included 37 photos of the flood. The scene opens with detailed personal accounts of the Omaha, Nebraska, tornado that devastated the city and killing hundreds. He pulls together different stories from different areas of the city and at different times up until the second the tornado hit. Other tornadoes, at least six, and possibly more, all in one massive storm hit Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, and Indiana, within a two-hour time span and killing more than two hundred people and destroying thousands of homes. The gathered little tidbits of experiences during this tornado is quite amazing! He then moves into play by play, recording the time and the five days during which the rains and the flooding in different towns of, mostly Indiana and Ohio, began on March 24, 1913, the day after the Omaha tornado. The author doesn’t just slam down names of people who lost their lives. He has researched and gives a little background on some of the lives lost. And he wonders and expresses what may have been their last thoughts, which he has received a lot of negative feedback from reviewers…but I loved it! Here, he really wants you to feel their struggles and even describes exactly what happens to the body as it is drowning. He intertwines a little historical background as he is telling their stories. I chose to read this book because it did mention that Louisiana was also affected. Since my ancestors are from Southwest Louisiana, I thought it would be interesting to first see which of them would have been alive during this time and may have experienced the end of this flood. But, Louisiana was only briefly talked about in the Epilogue, and only about the New Orleans area…well away from where my family would have resided. Water was barely topping the levee at one spot, in which they put down a couple of large boards on top and had 12 black men stand on them while others filled sand bags and piled them up from behind. As the sandbags reached the height of each man, they were, one by one allowed to step down to safety. The levee held and no men were lost to the flooding. Crazy! ---------- My Cajun ancestors alive on March 23, 1913 during this: Grandparents: Paul Sully LeBlanc (1883-1970), age 30 Ina Wilma Roberts (1907-1982), age 6 Great-grandparents: Paul Albert LeBlanc (1859-1948), age 54 Elizabeth Broussard (1860-1946), age 53 and Julius Leslie Roberts (1881-1974), age 32 Mary Laplace (1888-1948), age 25

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Geoff Williams's Washed Away is an in-depth look at the massive floods that decimated the U.S., in particular the middle part of the country, in early 1913. Williams works through the days chronologically, and often the hours within each day. This style took a little getting used to; it had the advantage of being incredibly orderly and organized, but the disadvantage was that I found it easy to lose track of the various characters - this one in Dayton, that one in Indianapolis, another in Pennsy Geoff Williams's Washed Away is an in-depth look at the massive floods that decimated the U.S., in particular the middle part of the country, in early 1913. Williams works through the days chronologically, and often the hours within each day. This style took a little getting used to; it had the advantage of being incredibly orderly and organized, but the disadvantage was that I found it easy to lose track of the various characters - this one in Dayton, that one in Indianapolis, another in Pennsylvania, and so on - since they cropped up sporadically, especially in the early chapters. On the whole, this is a fascinating look at an event that once dominated the national conscience, but has long since receded from even the most detailed history books. (See The Devil Is Here in These Hills or Ashes Under Water for other examples of famous-now-forgotten events.) I have to say, though, that I felt the title oversold the story: at least as Williams has written it, the "changed it forever" piece is not obvious. He does spend a couple of pages at the end on water engineering, but I actually would have liked to learn more about those changes than some of the hour-by-hour accounts. (And now I'm being nit-picky, but Williams did not spend nearly enough time delving into the flooding outside of the Midwest, such as along the Mississippi, as the "most widespread natural disaster" - or the pages of photos of flooded Memphis - would imply.) Ultimately, I was interested to learn about this flood, particularly having read about the Johnstown flood somewhat recently. Williams does highlight those unlucky, lucky few who are known to have survived both, which can hardly be matched for bad luck.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mark Isaak

    Williams' book is mostly a collection of anecdotes about people in the 1913 flood or otherwise dealing with it. The common disaster all the stories deal with, plus the fact that some of the stories continue almost the length of the book, keep the book from feeling less than a unified whole. The book's strictly chronological arrangement breaks several stories into pieces. For example, Sam Bundy, who spent 57 straight hours rescuing people in his rowboat, is dealt with on pages 61-62, 69, 181-182, Williams' book is mostly a collection of anecdotes about people in the 1913 flood or otherwise dealing with it. The common disaster all the stories deal with, plus the fact that some of the stories continue almost the length of the book, keep the book from feeling less than a unified whole. The book's strictly chronological arrangement breaks several stories into pieces. For example, Sam Bundy, who spent 57 straight hours rescuing people in his rowboat, is dealt with on pages 61-62, 69, 181-182, 195, 230, 258, 265, and 337. (The book has a good index.) Sometimes this works to heighten suspense, but sometimes I had forgotten where a story left off when the book returned to it again. There is plenty of suspense already from the nature of the material. Because Nature is not constrained by the sentiments of the audience, there are many instances where rescues go horribly wrong and good people die tragically. These are offset by other stories of heroism and luck, and the reader rarely knows beforehand which type of story he is reading. Williams occasionally digresses into tangential subjects, such as brief histories of swimming lessons and flood insurance. Those digressions, I thought, were sometimes off topic but always interesting. The notes section is deficient for a serious history book; Williams names his sources (mostly newspapers) but gives no clue what sources apply to what information. Still, a history buff can find many interesting historical tidbits (e.g., the flood brought an end to Erie Canal traffic and a beginning to the job of City Manager being routine) in addition to the overall drama.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Maura

    In 1913, a weather system that started with a series of tornadoes, turned into multiple days of heavy rain and ended by turning to snow before the sun reappeared, caused utter misery across the country from Nebraska to New York, down the Mississippi and along the Potomac, even to the Hudson River. Deaths numbered in the thousands. Although floods had been (and still are) commonplace in the mid-west, this one was so devastating that Dayton moved quickly within the next year to build a flood-contr In 1913, a weather system that started with a series of tornadoes, turned into multiple days of heavy rain and ended by turning to snow before the sun reappeared, caused utter misery across the country from Nebraska to New York, down the Mississippi and along the Potomac, even to the Hudson River. Deaths numbered in the thousands. Although floods had been (and still are) commonplace in the mid-west, this one was so devastating that Dayton moved quickly within the next year to build a flood-control system. Williams packs in a lot of information about the various people in various places that were flooded. But at some point I couldn't keep reading about one more person being swept away and drowned - I began to skim through these sections. Some interesting facts came out though; Ben Hecht, who later on wrote "The Front Page" and was a successful screenwriter in Hollywood, was a young journalist at the time, struggling through the flood to report on the disaster. Carole Lombard, the actress and wife of Clark Gable, was a young girl at the time of the flood; her family's home was on high ground and her mother opened it to anyone needing help.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Paul Peterson

    Actually, only got through half this book. It was interesting, but the style made it unbearable for me. The book kept jumping from place to place, person to person, giving each individual's viewpoint of the disaster. This is OK for about 130 pages, but gets old. Some extractions from the first 130... "Hanna saw the tornado first. She drew the sdahes but before she could corral everyone in a cellar, an object burst through the window and slid across the table and crashed onto the floor with most o Actually, only got through half this book. It was interesting, but the style made it unbearable for me. The book kept jumping from place to place, person to person, giving each individual's viewpoint of the disaster. This is OK for about 130 pages, but gets old. Some extractions from the first 130... "Hanna saw the tornado first. She drew the sdahes but before she could corral everyone in a cellar, an object burst through the window and slid across the table and crashed onto the floor with most of the dishes. It took a moment to realize what that object was: a human body. Then, to everyone's astonishment, the naked body, a man, sat up, grabbed a tablecloth and wrapped it around his body. The man asked for some trousers, was hastily given a pair of Benjamin Edholm's, and dashed out the door without even introducing himself." "Featherless chickens bobbed back and forth as if nothing had happened, and the occasional cow could be found impaled on a fence post. A man's body hung in a tree." "When he regained consciousness, he found a summer straw hat on his head, only to realize it had been two stories above him and hanging in a closet a short while before."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Scholes

    It was ok. I think I gave it a higher rating because I knew a lot of the locations that he talked about. I live in Dayton and that was the focus of a lot of the book. Sometimes it is hard to keep track of which location he is talking about because he does flit from place to place. He also has filled the book with clichés. He does describe, in detail, the disaster that was happening. There is a fairly graphic description of what happens in a drowning. You do get a sense of urgency in the manner h It was ok. I think I gave it a higher rating because I knew a lot of the locations that he talked about. I live in Dayton and that was the focus of a lot of the book. Sometimes it is hard to keep track of which location he is talking about because he does flit from place to place. He also has filled the book with clichés. He does describe, in detail, the disaster that was happening. There is a fairly graphic description of what happens in a drowning. You do get a sense of urgency in the manner he writes of the flood and the devastation it caused. There are some head scratching comments in the book. An example of one is about a little boy who had seen a man in waist deep water shouting for help. "Probably frightened by what he saw, the little boy said nothing to anyone all day. Or maybe he was on the fast track to becoming a future demented serial killer." Ummmmm WHAT???

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    Excellent book. I hadn't heard of this flood before I saw the book on a book seller advertisement. My family lived in many of the areas hit by the flood. I went back to my Grandmother's autobiography (privately self-published for family use) and she had an entire chapter devoted to the flood. Luckily, they did not lose a building, but the garden was completely washed away. In 1913 losing a garden put a hardship on the entire family. I had totally forgotten that she wrote about the flood. I wish Excellent book. I hadn't heard of this flood before I saw the book on a book seller advertisement. My family lived in many of the areas hit by the flood. I went back to my Grandmother's autobiography (privately self-published for family use) and she had an entire chapter devoted to the flood. Luckily, they did not lose a building, but the garden was completely washed away. In 1913 losing a garden put a hardship on the entire family. I had totally forgotten that she wrote about the flood. I wish she was here today to discuss it! The author clearly described the weather phenomenon that lead up to the disaster. I had tears rolling down my face reading some of the stories of entire families, riding down the river on top of their washed away homes to never be seen again.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sally

    Since I am from Omaha, Ne, I have always heard about the tornado of 1913 that did so much damage to the city. I did not know that it was part of a gigantic storm system that marched East across the states flooding and devastating towns and cities and killing hundreds of people. It tells of the harrowing rescues of so many people by their fellow townsman and the horror of watching people drown right in front of them. So many families were stuck on their roofs for days until they were rescued or d Since I am from Omaha, Ne, I have always heard about the tornado of 1913 that did so much damage to the city. I did not know that it was part of a gigantic storm system that marched East across the states flooding and devastating towns and cities and killing hundreds of people. It tells of the harrowing rescues of so many people by their fellow townsman and the horror of watching people drown right in front of them. So many families were stuck on their roofs for days until they were rescued or drowned as their homes broke loose and were swept into the waters. I would really recommend this book to everyone as part of our history.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ceh131973

    The Great Flood of 1913 is perhaps the biggest disaster that no one has heard about. It impacted fourteen states and was not only a flood but also a tornado outbreak. The impact was felt for a long time through many communities.This is a well researched and constructed narractive of the events during the disaster of 1913. It not only adequately explains the scientific and historic aspects of this event but really focuses on the humanistic angle. By telling the stories of the people that were eff The Great Flood of 1913 is perhaps the biggest disaster that no one has heard about. It impacted fourteen states and was not only a flood but also a tornado outbreak. The impact was felt for a long time through many communities.This is a well researched and constructed narractive of the events during the disaster of 1913. It not only adequately explains the scientific and historic aspects of this event but really focuses on the humanistic angle. By telling the stories of the people that were effected by this event it makes it very readable as well as informative.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Babs M

    I enjoyed reading this book. He did warn ahead of time that he could not cover all the cities but I was a bit disappointed to find only one paragraph addressing my hometown of Massillon. It is a well documented part of Massillon history and I always heard about the flood while living there. I guess the good thing was the paragraph on my hometown talked about the grandfather of on of my father's good friends. I do highly recommend the book for those that live in SW Ohio (especially Dayton) and Ea I enjoyed reading this book. He did warn ahead of time that he could not cover all the cities but I was a bit disappointed to find only one paragraph addressing my hometown of Massillon. It is a well documented part of Massillon history and I always heard about the flood while living there. I guess the good thing was the paragraph on my hometown talked about the grandfather of on of my father's good friends. I do highly recommend the book for those that live in SW Ohio (especially Dayton) and Eastern Indiana, I think you would find much you could relate to.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carol Avery

    Really great research I found this book very in depth. I felt myself feeling the anguish and fear these people faced. Those who live in towns in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and the Mississippi river basin, should read this book. The history of this tragedy is a great eye opener for women, African-Americans, children, and would be heroes. I can't think of anyone who would not benefit this history. A really great read. The entire country was affected by this catastrophic weather event. Really great research I found this book very in depth. I felt myself feeling the anguish and fear these people faced. Those who live in towns in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and the Mississippi river basin, should read this book. The history of this tragedy is a great eye opener for women, African-Americans, children, and would be heroes. I can't think of anyone who would not benefit this history. A really great read. The entire country was affected by this catastrophic weather event.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Davids

    I've read lots of books for research and it's always a pleasure finding one as enjoyable and readable as this one. Mr. Williams puts a human face on this terrible natural disaster. Dayton, Ohio has center stage in this book and rightly so as it was one of the hardest hit areas. However, more information about other areas (Columbus, the city of Delaware, Ohio, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, smaller, rural communities, etc.) would have given this book a more balanced look of the effect of the floods on I've read lots of books for research and it's always a pleasure finding one as enjoyable and readable as this one. Mr. Williams puts a human face on this terrible natural disaster. Dayton, Ohio has center stage in this book and rightly so as it was one of the hardest hit areas. However, more information about other areas (Columbus, the city of Delaware, Ohio, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, smaller, rural communities, etc.) would have given this book a more balanced look of the effect of the floods on the Midwest. Overall, a good well-researched book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Richard Lucas

    An excellent story The subject of this book kept me reading beyond the the time I wanted to stop. How a disaster of such proportions has been neglected by the media is surprising. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys history. Natural disasters have a way of repeating themselves. I gave this book a 3 star rating because of the many typographical and other errors. It would benefit greatly by a good proofreading, the only thing preventing 5 stars from me.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ardys

    In an era without efficient mass communication, the flood of 1913 became known as "the Flood of Dayton" and numerous other cities across the Midwest. This is an interesting compilation of the flood experiences across the nation and the impact on developing water management systems for flood control up until discussion of Katrina. In an era without efficient mass communication, the flood of 1913 became known as "the Flood of Dayton" and numerous other cities across the Midwest. This is an interesting compilation of the flood experiences across the nation and the impact on developing water management systems for flood control up until discussion of Katrina.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Deceptively conversational presentation of the many ways that flooding took the lives of many people and species and then led to a nationwide flood control program. It’s local to southwestern Ohio and you can feel his feet on the land with every page. Individuals come alive, sometimes living, sometimes dying.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anita

    I was intrigued by the subtitle and disappointed that there wasn't much about it . 80%-85% is only about the flood and personal stories about individuals who died or performed heroically. This was good, but I think it makes this a great story for a local history. I'm not knocking the local history, but I was looking for more of the history what changed the nation. I was intrigued by the subtitle and disappointed that there wasn't much about it . 80%-85% is only about the flood and personal stories about individuals who died or performed heroically. This was good, but I think it makes this a great story for a local history. I'm not knocking the local history, but I was looking for more of the history what changed the nation.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jobiska (Cindy)

    I enjoyed the book and the author's enthusiasm for the subject. Its breathless pace was a little overwhelming--but so, I suppose, was the flood! I did note some errors--a baby is called (something like) Christopher in one paragraph and then Charles Jr. in the next--and others like that. With so many names coming at me at once, this was frustrating. But I enjoyed the book nevertheless. I enjoyed the book and the author's enthusiasm for the subject. Its breathless pace was a little overwhelming--but so, I suppose, was the flood! I did note some errors--a baby is called (something like) Christopher in one paragraph and then Charles Jr. in the next--and others like that. With so many names coming at me at once, this was frustrating. But I enjoyed the book nevertheless.

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