As Rose slept not twenty miles away to the east the thriving
river city of Paducah was preparing for the worst flood they
would ever see. The townspeople started packing what belongings
they could carry into horse drawn wagons, cars, and trucks. All
river traffic had ceased due to the rising waters of the Ohio
River. Fears of ships being overcome by the currents or hitting
sandbars had increased over the last few days and the steady flow
of supplies dried up as a result of the inclement weather.
Paducah, since the early 1920's, had grown into a thriving
river city and many settlers much to their pleasure found Paducah
an excellent place to call home. Wildlife seemed to be abundant
as was good farm land. The winters were not as cold as they were
in the northern states and the many lakes, streams, and flat land
made it an ideal environment for a vast assortment of people from
different cultures. Industry had exploded prior to the Great
Depression and there was a massive influx of new blood which
helped the city boom. Now people of different nationalities and
diverse cultures began to leave the place they had firmly dug
their roots into. News broadcasts were few and far in between.
What little news they did receive from the outside world was
grim, it rung of gloom, doom, and disaster. Fear had gripped the
residents not only of the city but the outlying areas as well.
Rain, rain, and more rain seemed to be the unsettling news they
Paducah was comprised of a vast smattering of mercantile
stores, livery stables, hotels, restaurants, seed companies,
hardware stores, headquarters for the barge lines, barber shops,
movie houses, offices for the railroad, local government, and yes
a few bars. The city leaders tried at the beginning of the crises
to discourage people from abandoning their businesses and homes,
but soon dispatched the news that evacuation was imperative.
So as the rain continued to fall and the Ohio River expanded
the vast population of Paducah, somewhere around 15,000 people at
the time, began leaving and moving away from the river. There
were those families that opted to stay. Their businesses were two
or more stories tall and it seemed to them a good idea to
Andrew Long and his wife refusing to leave the mercantile
store they had built from the ground up started carrying supplies
to the second level of their building. Food, blankets, and other
sundries they might need were painstakingly pulled from shelves
and taken to the upper level. He and his wife and one of their
neighbors Billy Wright had worked to stock the second floor
"Well Andrew," Billy said wiping the perspiration on his
sleeve, "that's the last of it."
"Thanks," Andrew replied that same look of gloom on his face
which had been there for days, "not a moment too soon. Water's
already come in under the front door."
Mrs. Long sat looking out of the second floor window. She had
been watching the water advance first along the river's bank then
up Broadway. A sigh escaped her ashen lips and she crossed
herself. The two men could hear her praying God's protection on
the store as well as the people in the store. Mr. Long walked
over to his wife of 30 years and embraced her.
"It'll be okay honey." Andrew said as he kissed her
"I sure hope so Andrew," she answered in a harsh whisper, "I
sure hope so,"
"Gonna be a bad one," Billy said shaking his head.
"Yep, Billy," Andrew answered, "sure looks that way."
"Maybe we should go, too," Mrs. Long interjected.
"Don't be silly now Miss," Billy answered smiling, "we'll be
fine right here."
Having uttered the words to Andrew's wife, Billy seemed
satisfied that they had done the right and proper thing. He too
walked to the window and watched as the dark, gray water churned
its way down the now deserted street. Trash and paper floated in
the grimy liquid as it ran rampant on its new course through the
heart of this city he called home.
The streets of Paducah had become a wave of people, some in a
panic, trying to escape the influx of water. To compound the
situation the temperature started dropping and roadways began to
freeze. For days the majority of the residents made their way to
relatives who lived on higher ground. None of the inhabitants
could imagine to what extent their lives would change and for how
long. Some people prayed, others cursed, and others just felt as
if it was the next great adventure.
It was not long before those who had decided not to leave
discovered the folly of their ways. With no heat and the weather
turning colder some suffered from exhaustion, dehydration, frost
bite, exposure, and starvation. A nightmare unfolded as the rain
continued to fall and hope began to disappear.