State of Affairs

“This is another terrible day. The water is still rising and we hear distress cries everywhere… It is so bad outside. Electricity is gone. No lights or radio.”  So reads the diary of a Brandenburg, Kentucky woman on January 22, 1937.  The Ohio River flood of 1937 left 385 people dead and about a million homeless, and caused damage all along the river’s path, from Pittsburgh down to Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio meets the Mississippi.  Here in Louisville, flood waters forced the evacuation of 70% of the citizens.  In the aftermath of the disaster property sales increased in the east as fewer people wanted to live in central and west Louisville, creating patterns of wealth still in place today.

WFPL News revisits the Ohio River flood of 1937 in this special program from the State of Affairs archives.  Many listeners called in to share memories and stories of the flood with our guests Rick Bell, author of The Great Flood of 1937: RisingWaters – Soaring Spirits, and James Manasco, in charge of Special Collections at the University of Louisville Photo Archives.

Download the show or stream it here:

Brad Yost is a producer for WFPL News and Louisville Public Media.