Georgetown’s Floods

The Potomac river is flooding. After basically an entire week of rain, the engorged river is bursting at the seams. Here in Georgetown that means mostly that the Washington Harbour complex is getting flooded. By the middle of the week all this water will be out to sea and the levels will be moving back down to normal. While impressive, it ultimately will not compare to some of the historic floods Georgetown’s had in the past.

The most recent flood that exceeds this current one came in 2011. Like this week’s that flood came from spring rains. But for comparison, the flood gauge at Point of Rocks Maryland reached just over 17 feet this year. In 2011 it reached 22.5 feet.

What was particularly memorable about the 2011 flood was that the managers of the Washington Harbour forgot to raise the flood walls. It was a really bad mistake:

The water completely filled the plaza and found its way into the garages below. Tenants were, shall we say, not pleased.

The Washington Canoe Club and the Potomac Boat Club also saw some flooding that year:

But by historical standards, even this flood was not really that noteworthy.

Here are a couple more genuinely historic floods:

The first was in 1972 withe hurricane Agnes:

The water crested the banks at the foot of Wisconsin Ave. and completely flooded K St.

But even that was nothing compared to the devastating flood of February 1918:

Potomac Flood

This one came in the dead of winter and not only did the residents have to deal with floodwaters, they also dealt with ice floes.

Check out this excerpt from a Washington Post article from 2/19/1918:

30,000 Throng Aqueduct Bridge and Neighboring Roads to Witness Wreckage Left By Weeks’ Flood

Everybody nearly was out on the Aqueduct bridge yesterday…watching the ice in the Potomac go by. There were close to 30,000 of them during the height of the ruch witnessing and commenting on the greatest flood the Capital has seen since 1889…A young woman stood on the bridge. She was filled with poetry by the maelstrom which whirled beneath her feet. She grasped her escort by the arm “Ain’t it wonderful what nature can do?” she breathed.

This appears to match up with the photo because the article describes the destruction of several boathouses near the bridge, including the Analostan Club House (Theodore Roosevelt Island used to be called Analostan Island, as well as Mason’s Island). There are a couple other photographs in the LOC’s collection of the same flood from above that show wreckage to the boathouses, so that’s why it would appear to be the same flood:

So, while we all may have to stay off the river for the next week or so, we are lucky to be dealing with a far less severe situation than Georgetown has dealt with in the past.

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