Fort Smith's Flood History

By Leon J. Guthrie, Local Forecaster

Rainfall sufficient to produce a flood at Fort Smith may occur any month of the year, although there is no record of floods in September. Heavy rains over Oklahoma and southeastern Kansas are the only flood producing factor, which refutes deep-rooted tradition, "snows in the mountains." An example of this is the fact that changes in the stage of the river at Wichita, Kan., have a practically negligible effect at Fort Smith.

The official river records of the weather bureau station began Jan. 1, 1887. During this period, the highest stage was 25.4 feet, May 7, 1898. From "Hydraulics of the Mississippi,"1876, we learn that fairly reliable data of floods in 1833, 1844, 1866 and 1867 were recorded. This gives a record flood crest of 23.0 feet in 1833. The lowest stage was 1.0 foot below zero October 23 to November 3, 1893.

Since the beginning of the weather bureau records, the flood stage (22 feet) has been reached or exceeded thirty times: once in January, once in February, twice in March, four times in April, ten times in May, five times in June, twice in July, once in August, once in October, once in November and twice in December. There have been no September floods, although the flood stage has closely approached several times in that month. The floods occurred in 1893, 1895, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1908, 1909, 1912, 1915 and 1916. A stage of 30 feet was exceeded five times; and 25.0 feet was exceeded seventeen times.

During the 29 years of record, the river has been frozen on the following dates: January 2 to 11, 1887; January 20, 1892; February 7, 9, 1895; January 29, 1897; February 11 to 16, 1899; January 27-29, 1902.

Source: Fort Smith Times Record, Feb. 8, 1916, p. 3.