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From 1988 to 1991 I lived in an apartment complex on the south side of Dayton, Ohio. It was a great place to live and I made a lot of friends there. The apartments were in about eight buildings arranged in a sort of "T" shape. A lake curved around the base of the "T".

The lake was mostly scenic, but was also designed to catch storm runoff from the parking lots. A small creek ran beyond it behind a low earth dike.

In the first few years after the complex was built, there were many severe storms. Some of the worst led to large puddles in the lowest corners of the parking lot as the lake gorged itself on rainwater, but they always subsided quickly.

Then one weekend in 1988, we had a "100 year storm". It rained during the day, then started to pour overnight. The National Weather Service later estimated that our area received over six inches of rain in under two hours.

The runoff from fields to the south poured into the creek behind the dike. The creek rose and rose until it crested the dike and began to pour into the lake, which quickly spilled into the parking lot in front of my building.
The water in the parking lot surged to nearly four feet deep within an hour, then slowly subsided over the next four or five hours. I took these pictures in the morning as the water was starting to ebb.

The current was strong, and debris from the woods and fields to the south floated past. At one point, a tree trunk roughly 20 feet long floated past and hit a telephone junction box (you can see it at the bottom of the picture above). The steel trash dumpsters floated in the deep water and drifted out into the current. Once caught up in it, they moved across the parking lot and one crashed into several parked cars.

In the picture to the left, notice that the gray Pontiac Grand Am is crooked. It was parked straight before the flood, but air trapped in the trunk and cabin floated enough weight off the back end for the current to push it aside.

The flood left behind a thick, sticky layer of smelly brown mud. About 75 cars were towed out of the muck, and most were totaled. The water and mud permeated the interior carpet, seat cushions, dashboard instruments, trunk, engine and transmission.

Most of my neighbors lost their cars, but the apartment buildings were on mounds high enough to keep them out of the water. Despite the property damage, no one was hurt.

Before this flood, I never really thought about flooding when I chose apartments or houses. But ever since then, I have tried to be very careful to select locations on high ground with good drainage.

When you consider a place to live, avoid low lying land, especially in areas that are mostly flat. Take the time to locate the nearest creek that will carry runoff in heavy storms, and check to see how far above it your future home is.

After all, the "100 year storm" for your area could be the next one you have.
NOTE: If you use any of these images on your own site, please credit me as follows:
"Image(s) copyright 1988,2003 by Steve Bownas,"