ASHLAND -- It was a historic night in Ashland County, Ohio on Friday, July 4, 1969.
The day started off quietly but the rain started later in the day and it all tragically ended with millions of dollars in property damage and the loss of three lives. This flood is still considered the worst natural disaster occurring in Ashland’s recorded history.
Ashland was almost completely “put out of action” from about 4 a.m. on Saturday, July 5, until the evening of Monday, July 7, 1969. Later, on July 15, 1969, Ashland County was declared a disaster area.
The flooding was caused by about 10 inches of rain that occurred in a 12-hour period -- reports varied anywhere from 9 to 16 inches in a 26-hour period around the area. Experts classified this flood as a “100-year” frequency flood.
According to Larry Chamberlin, the Ashland County Bridge Engineer at the time, 26 bridges were impassable and some were washed away completely. A truss bridge was lifted by the water and carried 60 yards away into a pasture. Five culverts and were washed out and one road going into the Pleasant Hill Lake area was trimmed down to one lane for several weeks.
The debris scattered over Ashland County Roads amounted to about 450 tons of earth with ditches full, and streams dammed. Many area farmers also suffered crop damage.
The water main at the water treatment plant broke, losing 1½ million gallons of water. The reservoir eventually gave way, losing another 110 million gallons of water. A third of the city’s raw water supply was gone, and the remaining was supplied by four wells. Ashland’s water supply was contaminated and the National Guard was called in to supply drinking water.
In the city, the police department and city income tax offices filled with water and local businesses also suffered losses if they were located near the town creek. Residents dealt with water in their basements along with collapsed walls from the pressure of the flood waters. Three cars parked in the city parking lot were washed into the town creek.
Samaritan Hospital had to serve its patients on paper plates and the Faultless Rubber Company supplied 48,000 chlorine tablets for the toilets. WNCO stayed on the air and kept listeners informed of what was happening during and after the flood.
Local safety services were challenged with water rescues and other challenges. Mansfield sent four officers and two police cars to help in Ashland because Mansfield did not receive as much rain.
Brookside Park was closed with baseball diamond #2 being flooded out by the waters from the town creek. The Country Club also suffered severe damage. Most buildings or homes not near any of the creeks or low lying areas such as all the city schools and the YMCA were undamaged.
In Loudonville, residents braced for flooding in the Black Fork as that area struggled with campers looking for higher ground and dry accommodations as it filled with flood waters.
The Red Cross set up facilities in 34 locations across the flood-stricken area in Ohio. Most businesses and industries were closed and not able to open until the following Thursday. Power was restored for most of the area by Tuesday.
Eventually, the city received a Federal Disaster Assistance grant of $106,000 which allowed for improvements to prevent severe flooding in the future.
Former Director for Ashland Water Treatment and Supply, Robert Crego, said at the beginning of the rain on July 4, “I stood in the front door of my home on Smith Road watching the heavy rain. I stretched, yawned and said to my wife ‘Sure am glad to have a long weekend off.’ Well, it was a long weekend all right. The longest I ever spent.”