A look back in time – July 11-13, 1951

70 Years Ago


July 12, 2021 - 8:45 AM

11 — The most disastrous flood in the history of the Neosho River was predicted this morning by the U. S. Weather Bureau. Swollen by torrential rains on all portions of the watershed, the river is expect to rise to at least 26 feet at Iola on Friday. The highest point in past floods here was 24.65 on July 23, 1948, which forced the municipal power plant to shut down for nearly two days. Paul Bush, city superintendent, said this morning that city crews are strengthening the dikes about both the new power and water plants. The foundations of both buildings are about at the 26-feet, 9-inch river water level, according to G.A. Dunwoody, an Iola engineer who surveyed the area in 1948. Drenching rains fell on all portions of the Neosho and Cottonwood watersheds yesterday and last night for the second consecutive day.


12 — The rampaging waters of the Neosho River closed down the Iola municipal power and water plants today, reaching an estimated depth of 28 feet at 2 p.m. The city was virtually isolated with rail, wire, telephone and bus service cut off. 


13 — IOLA’S WORST FLOOD HITS 33.4 FEET, A THIRD OF THE TOWN COVERED BY WATER. THOUSANDS ARE FORCED TO FLEE FROM HOMES. The surging Neosho River ravaged Iola and nearby communities last night, reaching an all-time record high of 33.4 feet about 3 a.m. today. It is feared that two Iolans were drowned. 

Neosho Falls is reported to be virtually demolished, the substation at Humboldt was knocked out for several hours and perhaps 40 percent of Iola’s residential district was inundated. 

After rising very slowly throughout Wednesday night, the flood waters simply poured upon this community throughout yesterday. At times, the crest rose at the rate of more than a foot an hour. Hundreds of people were forced to flee their homes, loading their furniture upon vans or trucks as the water was pouring in their front doors. The crest reached Iola several hours earlier than anticipated and was three feet higher than the forecast issued by the U.S. Weather Bureau late Wednesday afternoon.

Although spreading over unprecedented widths to the east and west, the river continued to rise rapidly until after 8 p.m. From then on the increase was slowed, dropping to about an inch an hour at 11 p.m.

The crest passed here sometime between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. and began dropping rather rapidly within two or three hours. By 10 a.m. A. W. Young, county engineer, estimated that the river level had fallen nine and a half inches.

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