DATE OF EVENT: Friday, July 13, 1951
DATE PUBLISHED: Friday, July 13, 1951, in The Kansas City Star
Editor’s note: The flood of 1951 inundated the Kansas City area, and Kansas City, Kan., was hit especially hard. There, the flood shut down meatpacking plants and the Trans World Airlines overhaul base, as well as hundreds of smaller businesses. The area’s determination to recover afterward was celebrated in Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Kansas City Spirit.” But recovery was not 100 percent. The meatpacking plants were the most notable casualty. Some plants never reopened, and the flood hastened the demise of an already declining industry.
The roaring Kaw river, swirling and rising to record-shattering heights, today had engulfed rich industrial and thickly populated residential sections of Kansas City, Kansas, and is spreading to even more devastating proportions.
All of Armourdale is inundated. The floodwaters have risen above many roof-tops. Industries and businesses, the value of which reach to the hundreds of millions of dollars, are hidden under tons of dirty water and stacks of debris.
Fifteen thousand persons were evacuated from Armourdale. Several thousand others were moved out of the lowlands in the Argentine section, where the flood struck first. Some families, who refused to heed the emergency warnings, are marooned in their homes. It is feared some persons have drowned.
The flood, more destructive than the catastrophe of 1903, gushed into the lowlands at the south section of Kansas City, Kansas, after the river, swollen by heavy rains upstream, topped the dikes at the West Kansas avenue bridge.
Water began pouring into Kansas City, Kansas, at 10:30 o’clock last night when it splashed over the 35½-foot levee on the west bank at Twentieth street and Kansas avenue. It spread south, inundating the north part of Argentine.
At 5:20 o’clock this morning, the east bank dikes … proved inadequate. At three places south of the bridge … water poured over the top and flowed eastward. Within an hour the floodwaters had rolled ten blocks to the east, spread three blocks north and six blocks south, and had risen to a depth of four feet. Early this afternoon the estimated depth of the water on the streets was eight feet. The river stage was approximately forty feet. …
A fleet of power boats sped over the surface, removing persons from their homes, answering cries for help from men who had climbed to the high branches of trees, and removing oil drums from the swift current.
Sections of homes, heavy household appliances — refrigerators and stoves — furniture, foodstuffs and a variety of other items, are bobbing in the floodwaters as they course to a junction with the Missouri.
Damage in dollars already has surpassed the catastrophe of 1903. Thousands of workers are temporarily out of employment. Millions of dollars in supplies of every kind have been washed away or are water soaked. Hundreds of motor cars parked along Armourdale streets are completely inundated.
… At 6:10 o’clock the water was four feet deep in the Rock Island railroad yards north of Kansas Avenue in the vicinity of Eighteenth Street. Kansas Avenue itself was reported to be under about two feet of water.
One half an hour after the river swept over the dike it had reached the entrance doorway to the Procter & Gamble company. Employees there on emergency shifts fled the building at 5:30 o’clock.
The water, moving eastward throughout west Armourdale, had flooded the soap manufacturing plants of Colgate-Palmolive-Peet and Procter & Gamble, the Standard Milling company, Kansas Soya Products, Inc., the International Paper company, Griffin Wheel company, Caterpillar Tractor company and the multi-million-dollar partially completed Safeway regional distribution center.
… Before the inundation merchants worked frantically, piling up merchandise in trucks and motor cars which lined Strong. … Some persons did not believe the dike would give way and items floating in the streets today were mute testimony to their faulty predictions.
… The flooded Argentine district experienced new disaster at 3 o’clock this morning when a gas fire broke out in the McCall filling station at Twenty-fourth street and Metropolitan avenue.
The blazing waters quickly ignited the home of Charles Webb at 1510 South Twenty-fifth street and then spread to the Antone Transfer company, 2415 Metropolitan avenue. Six fire companies from the Kansas City, Kansas, fire department answered the alarm and fought the blaze hip-deep in water. The fire was reported under control at 7 o’clock.
… Despite efforts of rescuers, … some 400 to 500 persons remained in Armourdale, many standing waist-deep in water and refusing to leave homes where water was lapping over window sills.