Floods of 1941
Taylor county, Iowa
1941 was a year most residents of Blockton remember as a year of never-ending rain. The town faced some of the most devastating floods of its history. From June 2nd to November 6th, the city would be dealing with the aftermath of multiple heavy rainfalls. The storm started by unloading almost six inches across the town of Blockton within a two-day span. The Platte River, which runs on the southwestern edge of town, reached levels higher than before the river was straightened in 1915, severely damaging crops and nearby buildings as the river began to spill out onto the surrounding land.
More storms had reached the town on the 10th and 11th. By June 12th, the floods had not receded, but rather, they reached a 38-year high, surpassing the previous record floods by over a foot. Blockton had already implemented a flood reduction strategy by building a drainage ditch in 1922. The ditch had successfully prevented floods for the past 19 years but was overwhelmed by the constant downpours. The Blockton News reported thousands of acres of cropland as flooded, along with several large grain bins. The cost of the flood was too high to estimate accurately. Earlier that week, two residents, Miss Laura Lewis and Mrs. Charles Bailey, drowned in the flash floods. Both women were in their mid-60s.
Taylor County was just one of the many counties in the state suffering from flooding that year. In July, the Iowa Department of Health suggested that newspapers across the state stop printing stories on drowning deaths. The number of fatalities was twice as high as the previous years, and the department indicated that the reports in newspapers were far from helpful. The censorship may have reduced the number of stories on drownings, but the flooding continued for many more months.
By September, heavy rains struck again, and the drainage ditch overflowed once more. In November, late-season rains combined with the accumulation of winter’s first snow caused the Platte to cover a quarter mile of the road exiting the west side of town. Blockton and the areas surrounding the Platte River faced nearly six months of flooding and were looking towards mitigation strategies for the future. Residents gathered for a meeting discussing the best solutions for flooding. The Platte River already had a drainage ditch in place, but it had proven insufficient protection from the increasing floods; a new solution was needed. By the 1960s, Blockton would complete one of the most comprehensive watershed management systems in the state, with over 27 drainage ponds and dams built to handle the overflow from the Platte.
Sources: Blockton News, June 5, 1941; Lenox Time Table, “Health Department Would censor News by Elimination,” July 3, 1941; “Platte Takes Two Lives,”Blockton News, June 12, 1941; “Will Drain Platte Bottoms,” Clearfield Enterprise, February 4, 1915; “More High Water,” Blockton News, November 6, 1941; “Drainage Meeting,” Blockton News, November 20, 1941.