Little Bits of History

Rising Waters

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 4, 2015
Arno River through Florence, Italy

Arno River through Florence, Italy *

November 4, 1966: The Arno River overflows. It is one of Italy’s major rivers, second in importance only to the Tiber. It begins at Mount Falterona in the Apennines and runs 150 miles through Tuscany. It initially heads south and then westward. It passes Arezzo, Florence, Empoli, and Pisa before flowing into the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Arno is famous for frequently overflowing and so dams have been built.  On November 3, after a long steady rain, the Levane and La Penna dams in Valdarno began to discharge more than 71,000 cubic feet of water with it heading toward Florence. By 2.30 PM, the Civil Engineering Department reported an “exceptional quantity of water” had been discharged and areas north of Florence began to see flooding.

At 4 AM on this day, as engineers feared the bursting of the Valdarno damn, they began to discharge a mass of water which began speeding toward Florence at 37 mph. At 7.26 AM, in preparation for the water’s movement, gas, electricity, and water was cut off and by 8 AM, the army barracks were flooded. At 9 AM, the hospital’s generators (the only source of power in the region) also cut out. Landslides blocked roads in Florence and the narrow streets acted as funnels which increased in height and velocity. By 9.45 AM the Piazza del Duomo was flooded. The swirling, rushing waters breached the central heating oil tanks and oil was mixed in with the floodwaters which caused even greater damage.

Geographically, Florence is divided in two and the people past the Piazza Michelangelo were stranded. Santa Croce saw the highest water at 22 feet. The waters began to recede around 8 PM after killing 101 people. This was the worst flood in Florence since 1557. The flood had both an economic and a cultural impact on the city that remains to this day. Most of the people living in Florence were totally unaware of the impending disaster as they slept peacefully and there were no emergency measures in place since it was assumed the dams were protection enough.

There were 5,000 families left homeless and 6,000 stores were forced out of business due to storm damage. About 600,000 tons of mud, rubble, and sewage damaged much of the city. Florence was known for its artistic history and was a repository for many antique artifacts. Between 3 and 4 million books/manuscripts were damaged as well as 14,000 moveable works of art. The Italian citizens as well as foreign donors and groups came together as the “Mud Angels” and many of the damaged works have been restored. There are also newly established methods of conservation for the precious works and yet restoration laboratories still have much work to do. Not just the art/history/culture need to be protected and a massive project throughout Tuscany has been ongoing to prevent any future flooding disasters.

I have long been active in and supportive of conservation and historical preservation causes. – Jack L. Chalker

We were totally unprepared for such a large quantity of visitors, and in view of the preservation of the antiquities they being very crowded and in poor preservation, we were obliged to refuse admission until some preparation was made to safeguard the objects. – Howard Carter, who discovered King Tut’s tomb on this day

All that mankind has done, thought or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books. – Thomas Carlyle

Individually, museums are fine institutions, dedicated to the high values of preservation, education and truth; collectively, their growth in numbers points to the imaginative death of this country. – Robert Hewison

Also on this day: Symbolism – In 1899, Sigmund Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams in Germany.
Chartists – In 1839, the Newport Uprising ended in bloodshed.
Erie Canal – In 1825, the “Wedding of the Waters” took place.
Nighty Night – In 1847, chloroform’s anesthetic properties were discovered.
Pharaoh Tutankhamen – In 1922, King Tut’s tomb was found.

* “Firenze.Arno” by No machine readable author provided. JoJan assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims).. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Firenze.Arno.jpg#/media/File:Firenze.Arno.jpg

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