The Ohio River Flood of March 1945

Although the Great Flood of 1937 gets most of the attention, and perhaps deservedly so, the flood that beset the Ohio River Valley eight years later was also extremely damaging.  While 1937 is the flood of record at Louisville, 1945 is in second place (albeit a distant 2nd), with a peak stage at Louisville of 74.4 feet.  This stage is about eleven feet below the 1937 stage, and ties with the stage set during the devastating 1884 flood.

 

  1937 Stage Rank 1945 Stage Rank 1884 Stage Rank
Clifty Creek 475.9 1 464.0 3 464.3 2
McAlpine Upper 52.15 1 42.1 2 41.7 3
McAlpine Lower 85.44 1 74.4 2 (tie) 74.4 2 (tie)*
Cannelton 60.8 1 54.4 2 N/A** N/A**
Tell City 56.95 1 52.0 3 50.8 4***

* McAlpine Lower's 3rd highest stage is 73.46' set in 1964
** Cannelton's 3rd highest stage is 53.9' set in 1964
*** Tell City's 2nd highest stage is 53.0' set in 1964

As is almost always the case with massive Ohio River floods, snow melt had very little impact.  The deepest snow cover at Louisville between New Year's Day and the flood was only 3 inches on the 29th of January, and that melted away in a few days.  The bulk of the heavy rain that caused the flood fell during a three week period leading up to the flood.  Rainfall during that time was over 500% of normal in southern Indiana, and around 400% of normal along the length of the Ohio River (see graphics below -- click on them for a larger image). 

Kentucky Precip Departure from Normal Kentucky/southern Indiana precipitation  departure from normal.
U.S. Precip departure from normal U.S. precipitation departure from normal.

The rain came in four main waves, on February 20-21, February 25-26, March 1-2, and March 5-6.  February 26 still stands as Louisville's 5th wettest February day on record (2.85"), and March 6 is the 10th wettest March day on record (2.66").  March 1945 is the 3rd wettest March on record, and February 1945 is actually only #19 on the list.  However, instead of looking at calendar months, the period February 20 - March 8, 1945 is the second wettest such period on record at Louisville (1997 is #1).

The following photos were taken in the Butchertown neighborhood in the vicinity of today's I-64/71 split.

 1945 flood at Louisville  1945 flood at Louisville  1945 flood at Louisville  1945 flood at Louisville
 1945 flood at Louisville  1945 flood at Louisville  1945 flood at Louisville  1945 flood at Louisville
 1945 flood at Louisville  1945 flood at Louisville  1945 flood at Louisville  1945 flood at Louisville
 1945 flood at Louisville  1945 flood at Louisville  1945 flood at Louisville  1945 flood at Louisville


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