The first terrors that gripped Indianapolis with the bursting of the dams and levees that held the White river, Fall creek and the Big and Little Eagle creeks in check, were abated Thursday, March 28, by the reports that the flood was abating.

The city proper, appalled by the tales of woe that came from across the river, had been unable to realize the extent of the misery and suffering caused by the flood in West Indianapolis and Moorefield. Here were quartered many of the working people of the town.

Seven thousand families lost their homes within a territory of fifteen miles. Penniless, bitten by the cold that set in, these refugees were huddled under improvised shelters. The food supply gave out and there was intense suffering.

In the city proper the greatest fear was of a possible fire. The water supply was cut off, and so every inhabitant shared in the distress of the homeless.

On March 28 food and clothing had been provided for many sufferers from the flood and the threatened famine had been averted. Many were in need of aid, however, and relief work was being carried on as rapidly as possible. The belief that the catastrophe caused a great loss of life was maintained for several days, although an estimate could not be obtained from any source, but later the early reports were found to have been based on fear, and the death list was not large.

The White river and several creeks, which surround the business district of Indianapolis, ordinarily little streams and dry in summer, early in the week became raging torrents, sweeping everything in their paths. When the street car service was stopped at noon Tuesday, it trapped thousands in the business district. Some bridges became unsafe and were closed to traffic and the waters sweeping over the others defied vehicles and pedestrians. Hotels of the city were crowded to their utmost. As many as ten persons slept in a room. The Y. W. C. A. was thrown open to working girls and school girls, who were unable to reach their homes.

The experiences in West Indianapolis were similar to those elsewhere and many stories of thrilling rescues from death and danger were reported. After the flood the city set at once bravely to work at the task of rebuilding, in which committees of business men lent noble aid.


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© 2001, Lynn Waterman