Ohio Flood of January, 2005


In late December 2004 and into January 2005, an unprecedented series of storms wreaked havoc across central Ohio. On December 23-23 a massive winter storm dumped up to two feet of snow near the Ohio River in Kentucky, Indiana and Southern Ohio. Central Ohio was on the border between the cold and warm air mass and received a major ice storm.

Immediately following temperatures dropped below zero. Many in Central Ohio were without power for a week or more. This deep freeze was followed by a warming trend combined with massive rainfall. I recorded 5" of rain on January 6th, 2005 and another 3" on January 11th. The frozen ground combined with melting snow from the December storm led to unprecedented flow in Ohio's rivers and streams.

On the Ohio River at Wheeling, coal barges broke loose and struck the Fort Henry Bridge (I-70).

My Ice Storm Pictures in Worthington (12/22/2004)

My Photos of Delaware Dam as it was nearly overtopped (1/13/2005)

Official Army Corps record of the 2005 flood

Read about Wills Creek Dam - the largest man made lake in Ohio on 1/16/2005!

Ice Storm Pictures (back)

I woke up on the morning of December 23rd with no power. At 5:00am I went outside and a limb was blocking the driveway. I cleared it with a handsaw. It looked like to me the damage to the power lines was going to be severe and long lived, so I hopped in the car and headed to Lowes to buy a generator. It was pelting down sleet. As I drove there I could see blue-green flashes all around me as the power lines sparked under the load. The flashes kept coming continuously across the city.

I got to Lowes when it opened at 6am and bought the second-to-last generator. I got home, hooked up the generator and connected the furnace blower to it. Since we have a gas furnace, you don't need a lot of electric power, maybe 1/4 hp, to run the blower and furnace control circuits. By 11am our house was heated back up. Power came on that night at 8pm, so you could argue that I wasted my money buying a generator. But hey, now I have one and know how to use it.


Here's the view from my garage. The tree limbs that blocked the street have been cleared. It took me an hour to dig the car out because the ice was so thick. The electric cord is running across the street to my neighbor's house. I hooked their furnace up to my generator so they could have heat. Then we'd unplug the cord so the snowplow wouldn't snag it. Basically, WHAT A MESS!


The generator keeping the house warm. The generator is really loud! For this reason I probably wouldn't run it at night, and also wouldn't get it out until power had been out for a couple of hours. Still, it really did work to keep the house warm that day.


This is the crabapple tree in our front yard. The ice storm was followed by a hard freeze with temperatures below 10 F. Little did we know that this would be followed by a week of warm rain in January.


Ice is the mortal enemy of power lines and trees. My brother in law lives in a 1980's era development where the power lines are buried. Their power stayed on.


When the sun came out it was stunningly beautiful. This is across from Indianola Park in the Colonial Hills Subdivision of Worthington, OH.

Delaware Dam Pictures (back)

Few people in Ohio realized it at the time, but January, 2005 was the first time since the Huntington District of the Army Corps of Engineers had its comprehensive Ohio flood control system put to the test. The 1938 Flood Control Act funded the construction of dams across Ohio, and was enacted in response to the horrible floods of 1913, which flooded major cities like Columbus and Dayton. The boys and I headed up to the dam to take some pictures when we heard on the news that it might overtop (1/13/05). It missed overtopping by a foot, so people living near the Olentangy River got really lucky that day!



Delaware Dam is located north of Delaware Ohio and controls the flow of the Olentangy River between Delaware and its confluence with Scioto River near downtown Columbus. It was built between 1947-1951. The lake normally sits at 905 feet above sea level. On this day it peaked a mere foot from overtopping the spillway at 946 feet. That would not have been permitted and instead the flood control gates would have been opened and severe downstream flooding would have occurred. It was a close call!


This what the level at Delaware Dam normally looks like. I took this picture a month later after the level had gone back to normal.


I'm standing on the dam, looking at the water nearing the top of the earthen levy that abuts the concrete spillway. If the water overtops this dirt levy, it will erode it and the entire lake would empty in a few hours. Amazingly, the lake level stopped one foot below the level at which they would have had to act.

There were Ohio State Troopers patrolling the dam - this was serious business!


The same view as above, but the water has receded to normal levels. The presence of the large trees shows that the area near the base of the abutment is rarely submerged.


The normal discharge gates were wide open. Without lifting the main spillway gates, this is the maximum amount of water the Delaware Dam can discharge. It was barely enough to keep the lake level in check. The dam was shaking and the water was roaring. It was the most stress this dam had been under since it was built, and its first real test in over fifty years.


The Columbus Television Stations had crews on hand in case the spillway had to be opened. This would have likely flooded parts of Worthington, Clintonville and the Ohio State University Campus including the Horseshoe. Luckily, it never happened!


Here you can see the spillway gates which were not opened since the lake level peaked one foot below overtopping them. The smaller openings at the base of the dam is where the water is normally discharged.

All dams are designed to be passively safe. Had the dam operators failed to act, water would have begun pouring over the top of those gates(just visible in the lower right hand corner). Depending on the flow into the reservoir, this probably would have been sufficient to prevent water from rising high enough to overtop and destroy the thousands of feet of earthen embankment surrounding the spillway monolith.