A Big Flood

Vanport street scene
There is a new city on the Columbia River. The city is between Vancouver and Portland. The name is Vanport.



Kaiser shipyards in Vancouver, Oregon
Companies nearby make ships for the Second World War. The companies need more workers. The workers need houses.



aerial view of Vanport
So the companies build a new city for the workers in 1942. About 42,000 people live in Vanport during the war.



students and teachers at a school in Vanport
It is the state’s second largest city. About 40% of the people are African-American. Vanport gives jobs to the first black teachers and police in the state.



“VEC Campus,” Portland State University, accessed October 5, 2018, https://exhibits.library.pdx.edu/items/show/238.
Vanport has stores, a hospital, a movie theater, and schools. There is a college to help soldiers returning from the war. Later, the college becomes Portland State University.



winter snow in forest
In 1948, there is much snow in the winter.



raindrops on water
There is more rain in the spring.



“Interstate Bridge,” Portland State University, accessed October 3, 2018, https://exhibits.library.pdx.edu/items/show/218.
The snow and rain send a lot of water into the Columbia River. The river becomes very high. They say the city is safe.



home construction in Vanport
However, the city was built quickly. They used cheap materials.



“The dike that let the water into Vanport,” Portland State University, accessed October 5, 2018, https://exhibits.library.pdx.edu/items/show/203.
Only a dirt wall separates the city from the river.  On May 30, 1948, the dirt wall breaks.



Water from the river flows into the city.



flooded houses in Vanport
The city is under water in less than two hours.



people looking at damaged and flooded houses
15 people die. Buildings are damaged or destroyed. 17,500 people have no homes now.



Portland International Raceway entrance
The city of Vanport is not built again. The land becomes part of Portland. Today, it is a racetrack and a golf course.



The city is gone. Only stories remain.



Comprehension Questions



Discussion Question

Talk with a classmate. A flood is a natural disaster. What are other kinds of natural disasters? For example: earthquake, typhoon, hurricane, tornado, wildfire, drought. What happens in your country?






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Portland People and Places Copyright © 2018 by Timothy Krause is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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