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Wooster Digital History Project

Wooster Awakens To The Flood: July 5th

At 4:30 a.m. on July 5th, Wooster Mayor Paul Tilford was woken by a phone call from a Wooster police officer. The officer didn’t have good news. Several people were missing, including four police officers, and the city was inundated with floodwaters from the southeast and southwest1.

Sadly, this phone call would have been one of many that would be made in the late night and early morning hours of July 4 and 5, 1969. All around Wooster, residents were waking up to the state of emergency. While many calls went to emergency services, some were directed to the Daily Record. One, intercepted by city hall reporter Bee Collins, told of a woman minutes away from drowning2.

Communications remained important in the response. REACTs played one of the largest roles in the time immediately following the flood. Members of REACT,  which stands for “Radio Emergency Associated Citizen Team,” assisted Wooster police by directing traffic and provided stable communication for rescue efforts. REACT virtually became Wooster’s main communications network, feeding important information to rescue crews, Wooster’s WWST radio station and state authorities in the place of normal means of communication that had been damaged by the flood3.

Two of the four police officers that were missing were eventually found, but the other two, Sergeant Paul Knisely and Patrolman Robert Goodrich, were killed when their rescue boat capsized on Bauer Road4, joining a list of 27 that would lose their lives to the flood.

Timeline: The July 4-5 Flood

For more information, view the flood map.



1- Paul Tilford, "Statement of Hon. Paul. E. Tilford, Mayor of the City of Wooster, Ohio" in Ohio Storm Damage Inspection: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Flood Control of the Committee on Public Works, House of Representatives, (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1970), p. 257.
2- Elinor Taylor, "Once Every Hundred Years Is More Than Enough," Daily Record (Wooster, OH), Special Section, July 3, 1989, p.1. 
3- "Red Cross, REACT In Heroic Tasks," Daily Record (Wooster, OH), July 8, 1969, p. 3.
4- "12 Feared Dead In Flood," Daily Record (Wooster, OH),Vol. LXXVI, No. 26, July 5, 1969, p. 2.