Feb 08, 2019

Opera Recalls Historic Midwest Flood

The opera explores a historic Midwest flood and its larger implications to flood control law across the nation

Opera recalls historic Midwest flood and the flood control laws that followed
Opera recalls historic Midwest flood and the flood control laws that followed

A new opera, called “The Flood,” recalls the Great Flood of 1913 that struck the Midwest, claimed hundreds of lives and triggered major flood control policy reforms across the Midwest. The opera, which is just over an hour, is playing at the historic Southern Theater in Columbus, Ohio, and is a collaboration between Opera Columbus and the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra.

The story follows a family affected by the historic flood’s destruction and follows family members to present day as the personal and public effects of the disaster are examined, according to The Associated Press. The 1913 flood began with heavy rainfall on Easter weekend that led to significant flooding in more than a dozen states, ranging from Illinois to Connecticut, and costing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

“We’re used to drama and death and dealing with those topics,” said Peggy Kriha Dye, general and artistic director of Opera Columbus. “Opera is the perfect form to do that because everything is heightened in this art form. It can handle heavy topics.”

The powerful flood was exacerbated by a June 1912 eruption of the Novarupta volcano in Alaska, an eruption that was 30 times more powerful than the most recent Mt. St. Helens explosion. The explosion led to heavy rainfall throughout the nation and an extreme winter. A series of deadly tornadoes also led up to the storms and killed more than 150 people in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa on Easter Sunday.

According to The Associated Press, historians estimate that at least 467 people died in Ohio during the Great Flood, and that more than 20,000 homes were destroyed. However, in response to the flood, Ohio passed the Ohio Conservancy Law which granted the state authority to establish watershed districts, implement flood control projects and raise funds for improvements. Additionally, the Miami Conservancy District was created in response and became the first major watershed district in the nation.