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Rogue River overflows its banks in 1955

Disaster loomed when heavy snows fell in the mountains of Southern Oregon before Thanksgiving 1955, followed by warm rains the week before Christmas. Some 9 inches fell in six days, followed by 2 inches on Dec. 21.

The Rogue River rose quickly. The disaster relief team in the town of Rogue River warned people along both sides of the river to get out. The VFW Hall was opened for people to store their furniture and the Red Cross set up a canteen and shelter.

Some people left, but others heard that the river would crest at 21 feet — not enough to reach them. Before the night was over the river rose to over 30 feet and many people got out with only moments to spare or had to be rescued by boats braving the raging, log-filled waters. The town of Rogue River alone suffered more than $500,000 in damages.

Ironically, the Army Corps of Engineers had been unveiling its flood control plan the same week. It was after an even bigger flood in 1964 that the Lost Creek and Applegate dams were built.

Sources: The Times of Rogue River, Dec. 23 and 30, 1955

As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at asitwas.org.

The Rogue River floods near to the base of the Table Rock in this undated photo.