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Midwest Regional Climate CenterHosted by the
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Regional
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Community Profiles:  Brookville, Indiana

River: Whitewater
Storm Total Rainfall: No official rain gage reports known for Brookville, but upstream, Richmond and Cambridge were 9"-11"
Known Fatalities: 15

Timeline

The Whitewater valley in Indiana is a smaller basin overall, but with the steepest falls of any Indiana river, at 4 to 8 feet per mile.  Brookville sits at the confluence of the east and west forks of the Whitewater.

In ‘Floods on the Whitewater’, a document written in 1965 by the Whitewater River Flood Control Association (prior to building Brookville Lake), there is mention of several floods in the 1830s through 1860s which caused significant damage to the mills along the river and to the canals used for transport at the time.

In his history of Franklin County, Indiana, August Reifel writes of “Great Floods” in 1848 which wiped out a small community called Woodville just west of Brookville (presumably on the West Fork of the Whitewater), in which Woodville never re-established after this flood.  Reifel writes of an additional great flood to affect Brookville in 1898, in which 50 families were estimated to have been displaced by the storm and 2 people died.  The ‘Floods of the Whitewater’ document also lists a ‘Major’ flood in 1907. None of these floods compared to the devastation that came in March, 1913.

In Reifel’s writing of this historic flood, he reported that on the morning of March 25, the Whitewater River at Brookville reached an estimated 10 feet higher than any prior flood. During the rapid river rises of 1913, both forks were flooding rapidly on Tuesday, March 25.

Impacts

The 1913 flood in Brookville resulted in the deaths of 15 people and rendered nearly 600 people homeless.  Among the dead were several members of the Fries family, with this tragedy resulting in the loss of members of 3 generations of the family. Throughout Franklin County, some historic accounts document the loss of 7 to 9 bridges through the county, with an estimated 180 dwellings, businesses or farm buildings either swept away or left unusable.

In addition to the loss of life and homes, losses to the railroad, paper mill and other businesses were heavy.  Per Alfred Henry’s U.S. Weather Bureau report on the 1913 Ohio and Mississippi Valley floods, published in 1914 – two additional deaths were reported in Cambridge City, Indiana. Widespread damages to public and rail bridges were also reported across Wayne, Fayette and Union counties in Indiana, though little detail of the impacts beyond this is unknown.

1913 postcard of Brookville, IN

The "Big Four" depot in Brookville, IN

Flood Protection Measures

Construction of Brookville Lake began in 1965 and the reservoir began operating in 1974. Brookville dam sits upstream of Brookville on the east fork of the Whitewater River. The purpose of the reservoir was to control flooding in the Whitewater Valley and control flows into the Ohio River. The lake is also a municipal water supply for the region.

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