There are certain moments in history that are never forgotten. From major storms and floods to historical milestones, the path of our history has been carved by moments like these – moments that everyone born in the last 70 years will undoubtedly recall.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. 1937 - The Great Ohio Valley Flood
This flood occurred in January/February 1937 and was the result of 19 days of consecutive rain combined with snow melt. As a result, the Ohio River reached 19 feet above flood stage in Huntington, and a total depth of 69.45 feet, turning the city streets into rivers that could only be navigated via canoe.
2. 1943 - West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette
This landmark case goes down in the annals of West Virginia - and U.S. - history as declaring that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment protects students who choose not to recite the pledge of allegiance in public schools. This case, presided over by Chief Justice Harlan Stone (above), overruled a 1940 case on the same issue.
3. 1944 - A deadly tornado strikes Shinnston
This was the deadliest tornado ever to strike West Virginia. It tore through the small town of Shinnston on June 23 at 8:30 p.m., killing 66 people in and around the town. The tornado ultimately killed 103, and injured 430, before it finally dissipated in Randolph County.
4. 1967 - The Silver Bridge collapse
On December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge - which crossed the Ohio River between Point Pleasant, WV and Kanauga, OH - collapsed during rush hour traffic, spilling cars, trucks and 18-wheelers into the river. 46 people died that evening. The collapse was due to a small fracture in a steel eyebar. The disaster is often associated with the Mothman, who was never seen again after that night, despite the 13 months of very frequent sightings that preceded the collapse.
5. 1968 -The Farmington Coal Mine explosion
On November 20, 1968, an explosion at this coal mine killed 78 miners. Only 21 made it to the surface alive. The event prompted congress to expediently pass The Federal Coal Mine and Safety Act of 1969 which aimed to put the safety of the American miner of utmost importance.
6. 1970 - Marshall University plane crash
On November 14, 1970, the worst sports disaster in American history occurred when a Southern Airways flight carrying the Marshall University football team, its coaches, and several citizens crashed just short of the Tri-State Airport in Huntington, home of the university. Everybody on board lost their lives, as most of the airplane's fuselage was disintegrated upon impact. The tragedy of the lost team and its subsequent re-birth was told in the 2006 film
We are Marshall, starring Matthew McConaughey.
7. 1984 - Mary Lou Retton wins the Olympic gold medal
Mary Lou Retton, born in Fairmont, WV, became the first woman in America to win the gold medal in the Olympic Games. Her achievement rocketed her to instant fame. As a result, she was named Sports Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year and became the first female spokesperson for Wheaties cereal.
8. 1988 - Oil spill pollutes the Ohio and Monongahela Rivers
On January 2, 1988, an oil tank holding 3.8 million gallons of diesel fuel collapsed, spilling approximately 1 million gallons into the Monongahela River, about 18 miles away from Pittsburgh. The spill quickly spread into the Ohio River, ultimately affecting 3 states, including West Virginia.
9. 1993 - The "Storm of the Century" strikes the east coast
Dubbed the "Storm of the Century," which formed in the Gulf Of Mexico, this storm ultimately stretched all the way from Canada to Honduras. Along its course, every conceivable type of weather was present. For our region, it was a blizzard that buried the state in snow. Snowshoe was the hardest hit with a whopping 44 inches of snow, or 4.8 feet, though snowdrifts in some areas topped off at an astonishing 35 feet.
10. 2000 - The Syrian/Israeli peace talks are held in Shepherdstown
In a historic event unprecedented in in our state, President Clinton chose Shepherdstown, West Virginia as a place for the Israeli/Syrian Peace talks. In his effort to bring peace between the two nations, Clinton suggested a neutral spot in the U.S. Although the talks went off without a hitch, the ultimate peace accord Clinton hoped to create never actually came to fruition. Nevertheless, the event itself will go down in West Virginia history.
11. 2001 - Massive floods devastate West Virginia
Once again hit with heavy rains, West Virginia suffered massive flooding and mudslides in July 2001 that broke all previous records, affecting 5,000 residents. It destroyed thousands of homes and businesses. Widespread interruption of water, sewer, phone, and electrical services occurred, causing officials to declare a state of emergency. no storm before or since has come close, with the possible exception of the '37 flood, which was devastating, but not as widespread.
Which of these events do you remember? Feel free to comment below and join the discussion.