Global Weirding in 1876: Fire and floods

Roger Pielke:

All the apocalyptic “climate porn” in your Facebook feed is solely a function of perception […] And no matter what President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron say, recent costly disasters are not part of a trend driven by climate change. The data available so far strongly shows they’re just evidence of human vulnerability in the face of periodic extremes.

An event such as the Rockdale centennial flood would be ‘climate porn’ today. 

On July 4, 1876, Rockdale would be the site of one of the worst flooding disasters in the history of the area. For most of the day those living in the area celebrated the 100th anniversary of the nation. As night approached the celebrations wrapped up. Around 10 p.m. a light drizzle began falling. Soon this drizzle turned into a downpour of rain. The Catfish Creek soon jumped out of its bank and broke the mill dam which was upstream of the village.The resulting wall of water – which was estimated to be 20 feet deep and hundreds of feet wide – swept through the village. By the time the flood was over the mill and one house would be the only buildings still standing. In Rockdale forty-two people died in the flood, while in Dubuque only one person died. Survivors were found in the tree tops where the flood waters had swept them.


John and Frances Howell wrote home to family in England from USA in a letter of July 12, 1876:..

The crops here will not be good here, there has been so great fails of rain that has done a vast deal of damage. I dare say your Brother Joe can remember Cat Fish Mill. On the 4th July, the great day of rejoicing all over America, at night set in such violent a storm of rain has was ever known here. by Catfish Mill there was a little village of 12 or 13 houses. all had been at the great rejoicings and came home tired and returned to rest, and all families drowned in a few hours after. 39 men, women, and children, all but a young man and one family who were saved almost miraculously. their house turned on one side and was stopped by a big tree. they clung to the rafters with their heads just above water and held on until help came to them. I cannot sleep well for thinking of those dear children. The house was knocked to fragments and up to the 8th, 31 dead bodies were found. Hundreds of people have been to see where they stood. But the mill, which was built of large stone, turned the flood on one side and is still alright. You may conject what a flood, 25 feet deep, came rushing down and swept all away. There is a great deal of damage done at many places and the Rail Roads washed away, and many persons lost their lives. This year appears to be a year of great floods and fires….,_Iowa


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