Swirling flood waters inundate city in 1951


Michael Bushnell

Northeast News

Making the floods of 1903 and 1908 seem insignificant in comparison, the flood of 1951 was dubbed “The Great Flood” with the local mantra “May there be no next time.”

Souvenir booklets and postcard folders were published about the flood by enterprising area photographers and authors, such as Jo Anne Graddy, who self-published the photo essay booklet “The 1951 Flood in Greater Kansas City – A Picture Review.”

Another was “Flood Disaster – Kansas City, 1951,” published by Warner Studios of Kansas City. Warner Studio also published a postcard folder with the same title. The description inside reads: “This is the story of the Flood of July 1951, the costliest in the nation’s history, over three-quarters of a billion dollars worth of destruction.”

“It is a story dramatized by hundreds of thousands of individual tragedies: by homes and belongings being swept away in the flood waters; by thousands of railroad cars; by huge accumulations of debris; by cattle and livestock swimming aimlessly in the swollen waters in the livestock district; and by submerged bridges, highways and buildings.”

The July 1951 floods were caused by a storm of unusual size and intensity for the central Great Plains. Excessive rainfall in central and western Kansas during May and June of 1951 caused some major flooding and saturated the soil, sapping its capacity to absorb any additional rainfall.

On the afternoon of July 9, the rain began to fall heavily and continued through the morning of July 10. Following a brief lull, rain began again the evening of July 10 and continued through July 12. By midnight July 13, unprecedented amounts of rain had fallen since the beginning of the storm. “Black Friday” came on July 13, 1951, when the Kaw River overflowed its dikes in the Argentine district of Kansas City, Kan.

Despite the early warnings, there was no time to save property. More than 15,000 residents trod from their homes in a ragged line with whatever belongings they could carry as flood waters swirled around their ankles, then knees and ultimately inundated the entire district. Armourdale came next, then the Central Industrial District and then the Fairfax area. Some people fled to relatives and friends; others took advantage of the emergency shelters hastily set up by the Civil Defense and the Red Cross.

Comments are closed.

  • The Standard of Luxury

    June 20th, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News What was once the shining gem in the newly developed Executive Park area of Kansas City’s […]


    Bartle, Paige, Pendergast all call Forest Hill home

    June 6th, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News In 1888, when the Forest Hill Cemetery was incorporated, it lay outside the Kansas City city […]


    Legend lives on at Lover’s Leap

    May 30th, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News Near the confluence of the Niangua and Osage Rivers along the south shore of the Lake […]


    Liberty Memorial: A national tribute

    May 23rd, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News The third annual convention of the American Legion was held in Kansas City, Mo., on Oct. […]


    Downtown Kansas City’s dominant skyline

    May 16th, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News This week’s postcard was published by the R.B. Harness Greeting Card Company of Kansas City, Mo. […]


  • 12th Street viaduct links downtown to Bottoms

    May 9th, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News This real photo postcard published by the North American Postcard company of Kansas City, Mo., (Ottawa, […]


    “Great” Pepper Building fire

    May 2nd, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News Wednesday, May 7, a regular day: The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 6-4, the […]


    Beauty Springs eternal on Cliff Drive

    April 25th, 2018
    by

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News “Fountain and Cliff Drive, North Terrace Park, Kansas City Missouri.” So reads the description on this […]


  • What’s Happening

    Meth investigation ongoing

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News The Kansas City, Missouri Police Department is continuing its investigation into the June 20 discovery of […]

    Controversial Northeast development held by Council committee

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News A proposed retail development at 2600 Independence Avenue will have to wait at least another […]

    Suspected Drug Lab Busted

    Michael Bushnell Northeast News   Authorities discovered an apparent drug lab in the Historic Northeast on Tuesday, June 19. Police […]

  • Local Weather