Friday, November 20, 2009

1937 Flood and NDA

Annals are kept for each institution the Sisters of Notre Dame are engaged in. The account below is from the Annals of the Sisters at NDA. If you've ever wondered about how the flood affected the school since it was so close to the river, the entries may answer your questions.


The month of January sped along, bringing with it an unusual amount of rain and snow. Examination time drew near, and the Religion tests were scheduled for Friday, January 22. A few girls who arrived early informed the sisters that the river was so high that they were worried
about getting home in the evening. They were certain that the bridges would be closed before noon, so rapidly was the water rising in both the Ohio and the Licking rivers. While they were giving graphic word pictures of the flood stages, and while the skies grew blacker with heavy rain-clouds, telephone calls kept coming in to the academy from all directions: "N.N. will not be able to come to school today, the roads are closed," or "...street-cars not running," or...we are afraid she will be unable to get back in the afternoon." It was then decided to make a hasty telephone broadcast that there would be no classes that day.

It was indeed wise that this was done. All day the rain continued. The river passed the flood stage of 1874, namely, 72 feet, and it continued to rise at the rate of one foot each hour. Feverishly, all day and all night, people in the flooded areas worked to save property and

Saturday dawned very clear and bright and cold. A white cover of snow mantled everything. If only the rain had ceased then! But---

Sunday, January 24 dawned, bringing the heaviest and most continued rainfall that had been recorded for many a day. This day has gone down in history as "Black Sunday." The flood waters were doing their work. All radio programs were canceled to allow stricken cities along the
Ohio and tributary rivers to broadcast their distress and call for help. Electricity (except for radio), gas, and water, were portioned off in all stricken cities. Whole towns were being inundated, including Dayton Kentucky, Newton Ohio, Lawrenceburg Indiana. Louisville Kentucky seemed to be in a particularly pitiful plight. Incessant calls for help sounded over the radio from that city. "Life-boats needed at .... Please send life-boats!" Many lives were lost there.
Cairo, Indiana fought a harrowing fight against the rising waters for a week, as the water reached the very edge of the high wall which had been built to protect their city from floods. Cairo lies at the junction of the Ohio and the Mississippi. By building the wall higher with sandbags, and by letting the water into the city at certain places (where it rushed in like a geyser) they were able to save their city from complete destruction. Poor Covington was greatly damaged by the flood water, also, but not much broadcasting of their distress was made. The water would have out off all communication over the Suspension bridge, had not an artificial road been maintained by means of sandbags. The Licking River waters did untold damage to valuable residential property, as well as to St. Elizabeth Hospital. Homes that were thought to be beyond the reach of high water, were submerged up to the first floor, while those nearer the river were in water up to their smoke pipes. LaSelette Academy was surrounded by water. St. Patrick Church was badly damaged, the water flooding the body of the church. Monday, the flood stage reached 79-4. Mother Mary Angela, Sisters Mary Oliva and Maximina were able to come in for a short visit. The residents at St. Joseph Heights are suffering, perhaps more than we at the Academy, from shortage of water, light, and gas. In the days that followed, the waters crept closer and closer to the Academy, until they were but one half-square away. By measuring the water in a drain-pipe,
it was found that it was within about one foot of backing into our basement.
The Elks, the Red Cross, the Knights of Columbus, the Salvation Army, and many smaller organizations have opened relief stations. During these days we sisters are studying, praying and doing what work we can; in the evenings, we study for a while by candle-light as only one light (electric) may be used, and that, as little as necessary.

Tuesday, January 26
The flood stage today is 80’ and is now at a stand-still. The radio broadcasts still continue to call for distress from all points of the flooded area. Father Laux's church in Sandfordtown, Kentucky, is a sorry sight. Water has completely covered the pews; confessionals and statues are floating around, and the high altar is tipped forward. Walls and stations are ruined. Corpus Christi Church and Immaculate Conception Church, both in Newport have suffered the same damage. Practically the whole lower "corner" of Newport is a mass of debris.
Martial Law has been declared in Covington, not because there was any disorderly behavior, but to facilitate help, and to keep crowds from gathering where relief work must be carried on.
The water and electric supply is still limited. Water must be boiled as there is now the danger of epidemics--typhoid and dyphtheria.

Friday, January 29
Today the flood waters are beginning, slowly, to recede. Two Sisters ventured forth down Russell Street to see Mr. Liedhegner's bakery shop at the corner. He has been having the water pumped out of his shop. Meanwhile, he has been using the Academy kitchen in which to do his baking--by night. While looking at the flooded houses, a man addressed Sr. M. Edmund and asked her if she would accept some milk which had been offered for relief purposes, and which
he had been unable to dispose of. He brought fifteen gallons of this milk to the academy.

Sunday, January 31
We had Holy Hour with the Blessed Sacrament exposed, in order- to pray for the sufferers in the inundated districts.

Monday, February 1
The water supply continued to be less and less. Today there were street cave-ins, one at Ninth and Philadelphia Streets, and one on Dalton Street. The street and sidewalks literally disappeared for depths of from 10 to 25 feet, but no property was damaged.

Tuesday, February 2
Today, the feast of the Purification, we had another Holy Hour, this time in honor of Jesus, "The Light of the World," in order to pray that the Convention of the godless, in Moscow, should
come to naught. We had a Candlemas procession in chapel. Father Metzler, our chaplain, who had been sick since January 22, was able to be present at these devotions.

February 8: School Reopens
This morning, after two weeks' forced vacation, school activities began again. As drinking water was scarce, and polluted, we would have had to supply boiled drinking water to the girls, had we not been fortunate in having a cistern well filled with fresh water on our premises. The girls supplied themselves with paper drinking cups, and water was set out for them in large jugs.
There will be no free days announced for Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays this year!

Tuesday, March 2
This morning while classes were in session, just about ten after ten, the building was suddenly shaken by a slight earth-quake. Almost everybody in the building felt the shock.

Tuesday, March 9
Just a week following the first shock, a second earthquake occurred in our vicinity, at 12:45 midnight. This quake was more prolonged and severe than the first. Some of the Sisters were really frightened. What with floods, earthquakes, sand-storms, and locusts, not to mention the fire which threatened Notre Dame Academy last (Oct. 8 –crossed wires in a wall), the Sisters hardly know what to expect next.