The Flood of April 1937
The Flood of ’37 was the highest ever recorded on the Thames River, and was the most destructive of life and property. Five deaths were attributed to the flood, an estimated 1,100 homes were ruined, and property damage ran to $3,000,000. The City of London was the hardest hit.
Nearly six inches of rain fell on Southwestern Ontario in five days. On April 26 the North Branch rose 15 feet at Fanshawe, just north of London, in a few hours. The flats of this branch, including the London suburb of Broughdale and a part of North London, were all flooded.
In the meantime, the South Branch had risen 13 feet nine inches in southeast London, and continued to rise for some hours after the North Branch had fallen.
During the morning of April 27, the river reached a record height of 21 feet six inches above mean summer flow, continuing at nearly the same height until afternoon. At the Douglas Avenue gauge in London, just below the confluence (Forks), the combined floods reached 17.19 feet above the bottom of the gauge, or about 23 feet above normal summer flow with the Springbank dam closed.
There was heavy damage to roads and bridges throughout the watershed above Thamesford and, in almost every case, except at St. Marys, the greater part of the damage in the municipalities was done by smaller creeks. Even at St. Marys, a large part of the loss was caused by the flooding of Trout Creek.
At Stratford, the flood on the Avon washed out the dam of the lake in the centre of the city. Damage to private property was caused chiefly by Erie Creek, a small creek now flowing underground through part of the city.
Damage to public and private property at Woodstock was due chiefly to the flooding of Cedar Creek. The mill dam and the highway bridge at Thamesford were damaged, and a dam at Embro broken. Near Beachville, a few miles southwest of Woodstock, a CNR passenger train charged off the undermined tracks, killing the engineer and fireman and a transient “riding the rails.” Scores of passengers were injured. An Ingersoll doctor, rushing to the derailed train to administer to the injured, drowned when his car plunged into the Thames River after a bridge gave way. A London man drowned when he was swept from a rescue boat.
– Source: Twenty Five Years of Conservation on the Upper Thames Watershed, 1947-1973. Published by the UTRCA.