Wheeling, WV Flood, Mar 1936

134 DEAD, 200,000 HOMELESS IN FLOODS; WHEELING DELUGED, WASHINGTON HIT

17 ARE DEAD IN WHEELING

Ohio River Recedes After
Reaching Crest at
55 Feet

6,000 RESIDENTS RESCUED
PITTSBURGH TOLL
CLIMBS TO THIRTY

City Finally Starts Wheels
Turning After 24 Hours
of Paralysis in Flood

DRINKING WATER SCARCE

Authorities Fear Outbreak of
Disease — National Guard
17 ARE DEAD IN WHEELING

Ohio River Recedes After
Reaching Crest at
55 Feet

6,000 RESIDENTS RESCUED

Homeless Expected to Total
20,000.. as Relief Forces
Ask Food, Clothes

HOUSES ARE FLOATED AWAY

Three Lives Lost at Near-By
Wellsburg — Snowstorm
Starts Over Region

WHEELING, W. Va., March 19 —
This flood-beleaguered city tonight
watched the raging Ohio River
slowly recede from its destructive
crest after taking a toll of seventeen
lives and causing great property
damage.
Thousands marooned in office
buildings and flooded homes hoped
the end of the devastating inundation
was near.
The river reached a peak of 55
feet, 16 feet above flood stage, at
8 o'clock tonight, and an hour later
had dropped to 54.5.
Below the hilltops, to which
thousands fled for refuge, lay a
spectacle of death, desolation and
misery.
Police Lieutenant J. E. Stanley,
after a survey of the sections hurriedly
evacuated, reported ten persons
died trying to escape and four
others were killed by an explosion
in an inundated home.
Later, officers at near-by Wellsburg,
West Virginia's Gretna Green,
reported three persons were
drowned there by a sudden' surge
of the waters that flooded parts of
the town.
Spreading devastation for miles in
a score of communities on both the
Ohio and Pennsylvania sides, the
Ohio roared up Market Street,
Wheeling's main thoroughfare, and
submerged it under fifteen feet of
water.
Business places were under water
up to the first floor ceilings. Hundreds
were marooned in the structures.

6,000 Saved From Homes

The most serious situation arose
at the little island in the middle of
the Ohio River, where most of t he
10,000 inhabitants were trapped in
their homes. Houses were ripped
from their foundations and tumbled
pell-mell downstream. Observers reported
two of them carried two men
clinging to the rooftops.
Rescuers estimated at the emergency
headquarters set up in the
court house that about 6,000 persons
had been taken from ravaged homes
in Wheeling, including Wheeling
Island, Which is the city's Seventh
Ward. The island is about a half
mile from each shore of the Ohio.
From hill top vantage points it
appeared that the flood waters had
completely covered homes in the
lower part of the island.
The rescue teams, operated by polio
and volunteers, did heroic work.
They carried babies, men and women
from the second floors and
made their way back to safety with
great difficulty against a heavy
current. More than a hundred
motor boats took part in the work.
Colonel C. B. Hopkins of the Reserve
Officers Training Corps and
Frederick Libbey, both of Wheeling,
were credited with making
about 100 rescues in their twenty-foot
power boat. Battling the tide
on the island streets, the pair encountered
waters so high that they
propelled their boat by pulling
themselves along on a trolley wire
after the motor failed on one occasion.

20 Sick Children Rescued

Among the thousands rescued
were about twenty children ill with
measles, and four expectant mothers.
One crippled woman was lifted
bodily through a second-story
window.
The rescue workers reported
some of the victims seemed more
concerned in saving their cats and
canaries and other pets than in
being saved themselves.
An accurate estimate of the homeless
was impossible but some observers
placed the figure as high
as 20,000.

March 20, 1936 edition of The New York Times

Comments

Wheeling Flood

My mother Pauline Delbrugge told me how she was at the movies and they stopped the movie and evacuated the Theater. She got home and she remembers being on the second floor of the house and water filled the first floor. She would have been about 10 years old at the time.

1936 Wheeling Flood

My dad was seven or eight at the time of the flood and lived in Avondale (part of Shadyside, Ohio). He told me many stories over the years. There was probably a quarter mile between the river and my grandma's house and he told me that the water reached all the way up to her back steps. I was born and raised in the outskirts of Bellaire, Ohio. One of the pillars of the old Bellaire Toll Bridge is marked with the height of the flood. It was a scary sad time in history.