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Did You Know? The 1937 Flood

By Audrey Schiesser | Local Happenings

Stories Inspired From "The Story of Portsmouth" by Elmer Sword

In our eighth edition of “Did You Know?” with local tales from our county’s history, we are taking a look at the 1937 flood. Many of you are very familiar with the events surrounding this haunting time in our community. Read with us as we discuss some of those details.

At 3:15 am on Friday, January 22, 1937, the city officials opened the seven flood valves in the outlet sewers. This kept the water at bay for several days.

Things took a turn when the water was finding its way into the city’s streets through the underground passages. The local factory whistles were blown and the police radio car made several visits to lower streets several hours before the valves were opened.

City Manager Frank Sheehan was trying to hold off as long as he could in order to give families as much time as possible to find safety. If they did not open the valves at this point, they could not be opened later to allow the water to fall back once the flooding was done.

The numbers were around 10,000 for the number of people that were temporarily homeless after these unexpected edits.

Prisoners Freed To Help In Moving

Just prior to the flooding, 20 out of 54 prisoners in the county jail were released to permit these men to help assist the people in the danger zones after there was a shortage of help. The men released were in there on minor charges.

Supply of Drinking Water Dwindles

That Sunday, everyone was asked to start conserving their water usage because the supply was dwindling down. This warning was not taken and on Monday it became necessary to ration out the water supply.

The city officials and citizens committee decided to only turn the water on three times a day for one hour. This was after they had found out that half of the water supply had been used in the previous two days.

This ration order brought out the crowds. They gathered on the hilltop of Kinney’s lane spring near Waller street. Long lines of men and women waited to get water from the spring.

As the floodwaters reached their crest and began to recede slightly on that Thursday, water restrictions were somewhat loosened.

Boatmen Help River to Extinguish Blaze

Three Carey’s Run men, Joe Beaumont, Cary Grumme, and Herbert Millison, who had spent the three previous days almost constantly acting as rescuers in their 22-foot