1921 flood: ‘Katrina of the day’

Great tragedy explained at library

From Page 3C of the Saturday, July 13, 2013 edition of The Pueblo Chieftain newspaper.

By Anthony Settipani

Heavy weather had been reported near Pueb- lo on June 3, 1921, the day of the Pueblo flood.

“Everybody thought it was just a normal storm,” said Maria Tucker, the manager of Special Col- lections and Museum Services at the Robert Hoag Rawlings Pueblo Library. On Thursday, Tucker co-presented

an exhibit at the library titled, “The Pueblo Flood of 1921: Context and Tragedy.”

Wade Broadhead, city planner and co-host of the event, centered his half of the presentation on the city itself in the time leading up to the flood.

“It was a beautiful city,” Broadhead said. “Pueblo was rebuilding itself. We were coming out of the Wild West Pueblo, and into the new, clean, industrial Pueblo.”

He explained, how- ever, that progress and modernization were

not all that defined this tumultuous era. Heavy immigration, flu, racial tension and Prohibition all contributed to what Broadhead called “an un- settling time to be alive in Pueblo.”

Moving on to the

flood itself, Tucker took over the presentation to explain exactly what hap- pened during the flood.

“I’ve seen death-toll es- timates as high as 1,500,” she said, “but most of them range from 98 to 200-250.”

“Fires broke out in the city and the floodwa- ters carried away entire buildings and business- es.”

Tucker and Broadhead also showed a video, pieced together from footage taken at the time of the flood, that illus- trated the extent of the damage.

“Pueblo was placed under martial law,” she said.

Another unusual side note to the flood was

the government’s deci- sion to suspend liquor restrictions in Pueblo “as an emergency measure combatting the possible spread of disease.”

“Fifty gallons of whis- key would be sent to Pueblo and additional shipments forwarded as needed,” said Tucker.

“Once the floodwaters receded, the immense damage became more visible. The flood, which covered over 300 square miles, carried over 600 homes away and caused an estimated $25 million in damage at the time.”

“In today’s standards,” she said, “it would be around $300 million or more in damage.”

Citing examples of support and news cover- age from around the nation, Broadhead said, “This was the Katrina of the day.”

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