The swollen Rocky River wreaks havoc on a concession stand
in the Rocky River Reservation
The snowy winter weather we are having this week is beautiful to look at, but admittedly causes a certain amount of disruption to our daily lives. However, I’ll take the snow any day over flooding. I came across these photos of the flood that ravaged much of Northeast Ohio in January of 1959. Several lives were lost and property damages climbed into the millions. Downed power lines and flooded roads and buildings disrupted daily life. Most news reports detailed damage to buildings, boats and yachts in and around the flooded rivers. But there was also a hidden loss to the environment.
The bridge across Old Lorain Rd.
Note the huge ice chunks on the right, much of the damage
in January of 1959 came from ice floes in the rushing water.
An article on the front page of the February 19, 1959 Cleveland Plain Dealer pointed out this different kind of loss, not measurable in dollars and not as tragic as the deaths of friends and loved ones, but heart breaking just the same. Reporter Robert Drake was taking a hike in the Rocky River Reservation with our Chief Naturalist, Harold Wallin, looking for signs of spring. A spotting of skunk cabbage was hailed as one of those sure signs that spring is on the way. But Wallin noted that the flooding had swept away tons of topsoil, exposing the roots of hundred year old trees, and sweeping away roots and bulbs of millions of flowers. Also lost were “hibernating animals that were drowned as they slept.” The “lifeless, loose root” of a Solomon’s seal plant had Wallin “brushing away a tear” for “his beloved wildflower trails.”
There is no doubt that the destruction of the 1959 flood made an impact on both the natural and man-made environment. It was a poignant reminder that our flora and fauna are precious and that Mother Nature is not always kind.
 Robert Drake, “Skunk Cabbage Shyly Sprouts, Murmuring It’s Song of Spring,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, 19 February 1959.