Flowing water is beautifully hypnotic on a sunny day. But it’s terrifying when a swollen stream bursts its banks and swallows everything in its path.
Maybe this dual character of rivers causes floods to be more frequently commemorated than other natural disasters, at least in my well-watered corner of the world. Typically they’re noted merely with hash marks showing the high water level. Sure, there are markers commemorating tornados, hurricanes and other weather extremes, but they tend to memorialize a lost life, a destroyed building, or an act of heroism. We generally show our flood marks without much explanation, like battle scars.
My favorite set of flood lines is just a block from my home in Collinsville, Connecticut. Inside the old Collins Company edge tool factory, generations of workers kept the memory of one deluge after another alive with marks drawn on factory walls. Faded black letters that appear to have been stenciled, record the heights of Farmington River freshets from 1878, 1896, 1900, 1936, 1938, 1955, and other years not completely legible.