Animation illustrates 1913 flood levels

Like many good ideas, it started with a “what if,” according to Senior Utilities Engineer Technician Rose Haverkos.

“I was at one of the flood commemoration committee meetings and started to wonder if the Miami Conservancy District had a flood inundation map,” she said.

While the Conservancy had maps illustrating water levels from the flood, it didn’t have anything like what Haverkos had in mind — to show what would happen if the Conservancy hadn’t done its work on the river channel and other flood prevention measures.

Haverkos enlisted the aid of Chad Toussant, the city’s Fellow in Underground Utilities and a Geographical Information Systems analyst, and they started gathering technical and historic data to ask the questions “What would happen if the Miami Conservancy District wasn’t here?” and “What if the landscape of Hamilton had never changed?”

Some of the technology that Haverkos and Toussant used to create the map is what they already use for tasks such as predicting failure in the city’s water lines, which helps in scheduling road pavement and construction.

“It’s usually used to look forward,” Haverkos said. “This time, we were going back in time.”

They combined several elements, starting with the United States Geographical Survey maps of 1915, before the conservancy started its work, and 3-D renderings of the city’s present buildings to give it some familiar reference points, importing road maps on top of the elevated model.

“We wanted to have a component that people could identify with,” Toussant said. “If you’re going to show the impact of what people can do, they need to see something they can relate to now.”

The 3-D map shows not only how the water overflowed the banks of the river downtown, but how it also came in from the east as a result of the hydraulic system failure north of the city.

“Now it really hits home,” Haverkos said.

The finished animation also includes historic photos from the 1913 flood and audio narration of an interview with the late Marion Hooven Renick Hallowell, recorded in 1980 by her grandson John Renick.

Hallowell was 16 years old when the flood hit and was living in the Lane Hooven House, 319 North Third St., now the home of the Hamilton Community Foundation.

Haverkos said the techniques used in creating the map combined data across different platforms and programs.

“We’ve done many other models, but not at this level,” Havekos said. “Until now, most of what we’ve done has been in two dimensions, so we’ll be able to use what we’ve learned for pavement evaluations and criticality assessments of gas and sewer lines.”