Colorado

Jun 3, 2010 10:42 PM by David Ortiviz

Anniversary of Pueblo's "Great Flood of 1921"

It's the 89th anniversary of the worst natural disaster in the history of Pueblo. We're talking about the Great Flood of 1921. "It was so devastating," said Deborah Espinosa, Director of El Pueblo Museum.

It happened on June 3, 1921. Streets in downtown Pueblo were flooded. The Arkansas River overflowed, ripping apart everything in its path. "It was just tremendous the amount of water," said Kathleen Eriksen, who works at the museum.

"The flood destroyed agriculture, businesses, transportation, lives," said Espinosa.

There were reports of several hundred people missing--at least a hundred were found dead. The water rose swiftly, reaching 15-feet high in some spots. Incredible photographs of the damage are preserved at El Pueblo Museum, where visitors will soon be able to listen to re-enactments of that fateful night.

It's estimated the "Great Flood" caused nearly $20 million in damage. It damaged or destroyed about two-thirds of Pueblo's economy. "It set us back as far as our growth, a lot of businesses closed down and were never open again," said Eriksen.

It took weeks, even months for the city to clean up the damage from the flood. For a time, people on the north side of the river weren't able to get to St.-Mary Corwin hospital on the southside, which is why a second hospital--Parkview was built.

But 89 years later, downtown Pueblo is back in business. There's restaurants, shopping and the riverwalk.

The Arkansas River which once swelled those streets, was re-routed to the south and is guarded by a levee.

The water channel at the riverwalk runs very close to where the Arkansas was back in 1921.  A historic flood wall was built on the riverwalk, as a permanent reminder of Pueblo's worst flood ever.

"I don't know that we'll ever forget and I don't think that we should," said Espinosa.

EXTRA:

El Pueblo Museum is located at 301 N. Union Ave. in Pueblo. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To find out about admission, or for other questions call the museum at 719-583-0453.

Follow me on Facebook at David Ortiviz and on Twitter at @ortiviz

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