Generally, New York State is a quiet place. We’re not tornado central, our earthquakes are pretty tame, and it’s been a long time since a tsunami has reached Oneonta.
That said, we have had our fair share of terrible storms and consequential floods. A lot of those floods from the 20th Century were documented carefully and are now available on New York Heritage.
In early 1913, a severe winter storm hit the Eastern, Midwest, and Southern parts of the United States. It was the most geographically widespread natural disaster the United States had suffered up to that point in its history, and the effects of the storm reverberated.
The St. Lawrence County Historical Association has some records of 1913’s damage in Helena, after an ice jam on the St. Regis River caused flooding.
The March 1913 floods were so severe in other parts of the country that Salvation Army members from New York City traveled to Dayton, Ohio to help out:
Why head to Dayton? A 1913 issue of the Westfield Republican newspaper reported on March 26th that “the mayor of Dayton… has telegraphed that 5,000 perished in his city in the flood after the breaking of the levees of the Big Miami river.” Furthermore, according to the article, three-quarters of the city were underwater, and a substantial number of buildings were on fire. 100 years later, we know that fewer than 500 Daytonians actually lost their lives, but that’s still a whole lot!
But in New York State, engineering prevailed against Mother Nature in many places. In Rochester, the aqueduct once declared the longest stone bridge in America survived the flooding of March 1913. The Rochester Museum & Science Center collection includes some images of this aqueduct holding back the swirling Genesee waters.
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