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Cairo, Ill. levee dynamited to ease flood... in 1937

When I saw a new, stunning picture of an 11,000-foot hole being blown in a levee to protect Cairo, Ill., I thought I remembered some depression-era pictures of the river town by the Farm Security Administration's John Vachon. I found those pictures, in low-res scans at the Library of Congress site, but also found two high-res pictures of efforts to fight the effects of a great flood in 1937. One, an uncredited FSA aerial, is very reminiscent of yesterday's events:

Farm Security Administration via loc.gov

Levee being dynamited to save Cairo, Illinois, during the 1937 flood.

The other is credited to Russell Lee:

Russell Lee / Farm Security Administration via loc.gov

Piling sandbags along the levee during the height of the flood. Cairo, Illinois, 1937

And on YouTube, there's this video of the aftermath of the 1937 flood:


Whenever I see pictures of natural disasters that threaten to repeat themselves, as when watching Thomas Edison's panoramic motion picture of the 1900 Galveston hurricane during 2005's Hurricane Ike, I wonder how much we really can learn from history, when it comes to putting people in the path of natural forces.

The Wikipedia entry on the 1937 Ohio River Flood is here.

Our story on the current flood is here.