Writer’s Fodder: The Flooded Ohio River

Living on a river exposes many people to the challenges of rising spring waters, and this February has been no different. Many areas around the country are dealing with floods and the aftermath. Ludlow, Kentucky is one such area, which happens to be where my brother lives.




A pano of my brother’s front yard and street, just before the Ohio River crested at 60.53 feet on Sunday, February 25, 2018.



Bless his soul, not only does he have to deal with a flooded basement that forced him to cut power and gas to his house, he also has a writer as a sister. A writer whose current work in progress ends with the second highest flood in Cincinnati recorded history.



My story ends with the 1884 flood, which crested at 71.1 feet on Valentine’s Day, and if a disaster has to occur it couldn’t have occurred at a better time for this little writer. I am editing the scenes where that particular flood has a critical impact on my characters. (Do not take that to mean that I am not deeply grieved for those who are impacted. Disasters are no joke and I would never wish them upon anyone and am praying for those affected.)



Skatepark – 2/25/18



After texting pictures, videos, and questions back and forth, he finally just told me to come on over so I could see the flood first hand. Since this was the worst flood since the 1997 flood, I brought my boys along, because, hey! It’s history,¬†right?¬†Interspersed throughout are photos I took on my phone while walking only two or three blocks away from my brother’s house around sunset.




Some poor kid’s playset. Debris pushed against a tree. 2/25/18



So what was I looking for beyond the damage inflicted? This flood crested 12 days after my story’s flood, so believe it or not, water temperature was something that intensely interested me.




No, I did not let him get in. But we did touch the water. 2/25/18



You can’t interact with a flood and not get wet, so just exactly how cold did it feel? Cold enough that if you fell in you’d probably take a sharp breath and inhale some water. Cold enough that an extended stay in the water could most definitely lead to hypothermia – although perhaps not as quickly as I thought.




Someone else (not anyone I know) kayaking through the park. 2/25/18



When I saw this person kayaking around the park, I got way too stinking excited. As soon as they beached, I bombarded them with questions.

  • How bad was the current? Not bad, but don’t go past the fence. The current really picks up and becomes dangerous.
  • Did they have trouble controlling the kayak? Not here. There is a little current, but not much more than a pond or lake.
  • If they fell in, did they feel they could swim back to safety? Here the water was shallow enough they could stand up and walk back if needed.


In 1884, extra officers were on duty as well as extra regiments brought in to not only protect the people from danger, but also from themselves. Floods bring out the crazies (and I probably fall into that category, too). True then and true now. The picture below is of a young man who inflated a raft with a leaf blower and then proceeded to paddle his way out to the skatepark with a guitar. Yes, I said guitar.




It is zoomed in a whole lot, so not easy to see, but when he climbed on the top of a ramp, he proceeded to “play” his guitar. 2/25/18



Whether it be due to drugs (very rampant in our region) or just a goofy young adult, he made for an interesting night. He did make it back to shore and when my kids approached him (TMNT Momma was close and watching, don’t worry), he gave them the guitar and said it came from Johnny Cash. My youngest son asked him why he paddled with the guitar. His response? “Because it helps him train and stuff.” Oh my, but it is a memory my kids will have. Oldest wants to mount the guitar on his wall.




Busted but cool. 2/25/18



Despite the destruction and turmoil the flood is still causing and did cause, it produced one of my favorite pictures ever. Just like the rough times in our life can be overwhelming, there can also be moments of beauty.



Island House – They built it ready for a flood, but who would have guessed they’d test that out in the first year. 2/25/18


While getting some hands-on research was fun, it was sobering to see the damage and to watch my brother deal with the aftermath. His damage is limited to the basement, and many others have so much more they have to deal with. My prayers are with all.

Do you have any flood stories? Any experiences you would wish to share? I am always on the lookout for first-hand accounts. Connect with me in the comments.

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