Hurricane Agnes and the Flood of 1972, The Approach of the Monster

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I believe this is going to be at least a two part series.  I don’t think a post should go much more than a page; I think of it like a newspaper article.  This event needs more attention that can be put in one page.

It was 1972, five years since my last great summer with the pool gang.  I was living in Alexandria, Virginia.  I had left Wilkes-Barre a little over seven months earlier to start my career as a computer programmer.  I had made the transition from wise guy to a responsible father of two boys.  My oldest, Peter, was two and a half, and my second son, David, was just nine months old.   I had just completed my probation period and was now an official junior programmer.

Summer was coming and we were planning our vacation.  It would be a trip back to Wilkes-Barre to visit family and friends.  That’s when I heard the first news reports about Hurricane Agnes.  I didn’t seen like it was going to be the most powerful storm in history; after all it was just a category one.  Agnes turned out to be a meteorological monster that will never be forgotten in my hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and many other cities and towns in the Mid-Atlantic region.

The winds weren’t anything to sneeze at but Agnes’ real game was its rain.  It poured down rain with devastating effect.  It was so destructive that it was the only category one hurricane to have its name retired.

Agnes4

This is Agnes’ storm track and the rainfall totals.

As you can see the purple areas got over 15 inches of rain.  The purple in northern Pennsylvania and in New York State created the powerful blow that would spell destruction for Wilkes-Barre.

The storm took a toll on the southeast, and had gone out to sea around the Carolinas.  But Agnes wasn’t finished having her fun.  According to “Hurricanes: Science and Society” (http://hurricanescience.org/history/storms/1970s/agnes/); on the twenty-first of June Agnes encountered a weather trough over the Carolinas.  This energized the storm as it moved off the coast.  Technically, the storm didn’t return to land until it reached New York City, but its power was felt through the Mid-Atlantic. 

The storm bands swirled up Chesapeake Bay, and we braced ourselves in Alexandria as the bands rolled over us.  We had flooding in the city, especially in the Four Mile Run area. 

The rain bands only got stronger as the storm approached New York City and Pennsylvania was being hit hard.  That’s when Agnes made another surprising move.  Instead of traveling north into New England, Agnes decided to turn west into Upstate New York.  This move brought on a deluge to a region that was already beyond its capacity to hold water.

We watched and listened to the reports as the storm smashed through Pennsylvania.  The rainfall totals were approaching historic levels and we knew that our hometown was in for a tough time.

Tomorrow I will go into rise of the Susquehanna and the flood of 1972.  This is where I’m going to need help.  I can describe what I know and what my brother, Tony, told me, but I wasn’t there.  If you have stories of the storm, evacuation, or experiencing the flood please add to this account in the comments. Tony, if you read tomorrow’s post, please comment an set me straight if I got it wrong, and add more detail.

This will be more than two parts.  Tomorrow I will go into, what has to be considered, the toughest days in the history of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

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About

Pete is a retired software developer, a writer, and a martial arts instructor. He lives in Maryland with his wife Cathy and they are enjoying their retirement. Pete is the author of four novels, "The Teacher", 500 Years from Home", and "The Long Journey Home" are available at Lulu.com; and "Pioneers" in available at the Kindle Book Store.

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Posted in Historic Events, Memories, Weather

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