National Geographic : 1967 Jul
EKTACHROME FROMSCALA 35 miles upstream from Florence (map, page 16). She and her family, who live in one of four houses below the dam, did not believe that the warning was real. Two hours later the siren sounded again. "I was appalled to see the gates slowly opening," she later told a reporter, "and im mediately an enormous wall of water started coming down the Arno toward us. I screamed to my sister and we ran for our lives." Why were the gates opened? How much water was released from Levane's 6,409,000 cubic-yard reservoir? A heated controversy sprang to life in the weeks after the flood. A government commission inquired into the charge that Levane opened its strained gates because the operators of a second dam at Penna, farther upstream, failed to open their gates until too late, and then had released more water than Levane could handle. This much is certain-enough rain fell on all northern Italy in two days to flood 750 villages and 3,000 miles of highway; to drown more than a hundred people and 50,000 cattle in a wide area from the Po Valley southward. In this national catastrophe, whatever hap pened at the beleaguered dams in Tuscany may be considered contribution and not cause. More to the point, perhaps, is the Florentine proverb, "L'Arno non cresce, se la Sieve non mesce" (The Arno never rises up, unless the Sieve fills its cup). Before midnight, while 7 N.G.S.