Ethel & Julius Rosenberg Executed (June 19, 1953)
America Celebrates Its Bicentennial (July 4, 1976)

Hurricane Agnes Floods the Mid-Atlantic (June 21-24, 1972)

MapofpittsburghBecause of its inland location Pittsburgh isn't susceptible to the furies of a full-blown hurricane (and its hilly topography largely protects it from tornadoes.)  However, the city's famed three rivers (Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio) make it susceptible to flooding.  Fortunately, the neighborhood I grew up in sat protected on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River about 10 miles down river from Pittsburgh's renowned Golden Triangle. 


Hurricane Agnes was a rare June hurricane, but when it crossed the Florida panhandle on June 19, 1972 it was a weak storm that caused little damage.  However, once it was downgraded to a tropical storm it turned into a prodigious rainmaker as it moved up the Eastern Seaboard.  The storm became known for the loop it made over New York state and Pennsylvania where it stalled and caused catastrophic flooding that extended into Maryland and Virginia as well.




Although our neighborhood was out of harm's way from flooding my family was nevertheless impacted by the storm.  My dad was a foreman at a steel fabricating plant on Neville Island, situated in the middle of the Ohio River, and it closed that Friday (June 23) when water began covering the main highway.




Meanwhile my sister Linda's job  at Joseph Horne department store, where she was an assistant buyer, was interrupted for a few days when the waters of the Allegheny River overran its banks.  To protect the store special floodgates were wrapped around the building.  Linda's plans to see Alice Cooper in concert at Three Rivers Stadium on Friday were scuttled when the waters of the three rivers made their way into the stadium.  And my brother Darrell, who was home from college after his freshman year had a summer job as an usher at the Roxian Theater in our hometown of McKees Rocks and helped bail water from the theater.





Although rainfall in Pittsburgh itself wasn't excessive (2.50" fell on Thursday and Friday) the watershed areas for its rivers and creeks received over six inches and caused the city's most serious flooding since 1936 (e.g., the Monongahela River crested 11-feet above flood stage).  However, flooding in Wilkes-Barre (below), the state capitol of Harrisburg and Elmira, NY was much more destructive.  These areas had in excess of 10 inches of rain.  And despite the fact that summer had just begun temperatures in Pittsburgh got no higher than the mid-50s for three consecutive days (25 degrees cooler than normal).




Fortunately the hurricane season of 1972 was one of the least active on record which allowed the Mid-Atlantic to dry out.  The U.S. mainland wouldn't be ravaged by such a destructive hurricane until 1983 when Alicia hit Houston.  (For those fascinated by hurricanes a book to consider is Hurricanes & the Mid-Atlantic States.)






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Emerson Paynode

It is a rare sight when usually weak tropical storms unleash a torrent of water. But when that happens meteorologist and ordinary citizens are usually stunned. Heavy rainfalls can produce flash floods that overwhelm the storm drains and inundating roads and houses. That's the last thing you need when it's raining cats and dogs.

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