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100th anniversary of Spanish Flu Epidemic that killed hundreds of Chattanoogans

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

The year 1918 was a bone cold year. To this day, it's still the snowiest winter on record, picking up 22 inches from December through February. At the time, the population in the city was 108,000, and there were 33 establishments offering billiards and pool, including the Read House.

Mary Helms, the Chattanooga Public Library's Manager of Local History and Genealogy states, "They reported five thousand cases of influenza, so that was approximately five percent of our population. It was devastating."

Fast forward 100 years. Does the cold weather play a role in the flu, or did it, at least in 1918?

Dr. Jay Sizemore, the Medical Director for Infectious Disease at Erlanger Health System, "I don't think so, and remember in 1918, I mean this was a worldwide pandemic that really came in three different phases, the last phase as we moved into spring time."

While viruses spread through contact, it is possible with a colder winter, people were indoors more.

READ MORE | Doctors urging people to avoid certain activities that could spread flu

Helms adds, "Entire families were stricken with the influenza, and the pneumonia, that went along with it, and they lay helpless and without food."

Twenty-five to 50 percent of mills and factories were impacted. The hardest hit places were at the foot of Missionary Ridge, including Richmond Hosiery Mills, Chattanooga Bottle and Glass and Chattanooga Plow Company.

On October 9, the Sunday Times of Chattanooga reported that at 6 in the morning that day, all places of gathering would be closed to the public until further notice.

Because of this order, schools, theaters, picture shows, and dance halls were closed to the public.

At 6th and Market, across from the Hamilton County Courthouse, is where the Lyric Theatre stood. This was one establishment that was not open until the end of the epidemic in November of 1918.

Have a weather related story? Feel free to email Meteorologist Brittany Beggs.

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