Searching through The Standard-Journal’s archives, staff found several documents which vividly describe the circumstances surrounding the Agnes flood, and others which washed across the region.

One document, titled “Agnes,” was written on the 25th anniversary of the flood.

The text from one of those documents follows.

What caused the West Branch of the Susquehanna River at Williamsport to rise from a low reading of less than 2 feet on Tuesday, June 20, 1972, to a record high of 34.75 feet on June 23?

The greatest rainfall ever to strike the lower three-fifths of the watershed in a two-day period was responsible for this. Williamsport, alone, was responsible for 11.94” precipitation wise, resulting from three severe rain storms with Hurricane Agnes.

If the DuBois and Emporium area had received the rainfall that the Williamsport-Muncy area received the first day it would have been a different story for the Williamsport area because the water could have gone over the top of the dikes with much to spare. If it had not been for the dams in the West Branch watershed, the water still would have gone over the dikes, by some 3 feet, at Williamsport. Without the dams, the river at Williamsport would have been around 40 feet. Water tops the dikes around 37 feet. The dams — when full — hold back around 5.4 feet of water.

On Wednesday, June 21, torrential rains struck the Williamsport area, while the Clearfield-DuBois-Weedville are averaged only 1.47 inches, compared to Williamsport’s 6.92 inches. At the same time, the Pine Creek area averaged 2.46 inches by 7 a.m. reporting time on June 22.

On Thursday, June 22, the rainfall pattern was slightly different. The Clearfield-DuBois-Weedville area averaged 3.55 inches at the 7 a.m. checkpoint time on June 23, while the Sinnemahoning-Germania (Carter Camp) Emporium area netted 4.48 inches for the same period. The Pine Creek area was hit hard on the second day of torrential rains, with a total of 5.80 inches for the 24-hour period, ending at 7 a.m. June 23.

To give you an idea of how much rainoff there was, the river was rising at 1.4-feet per hour, which is about five times a normal rise of .3-feet per hour. Area streams went “wild,” from about 4 p.m. on Wednesday, June 21, to around 5 p.m. June 22.

------

A separate document highlights the history of flooding in the Milton area.

Excerpts of that document follow.

Ever since the first settlers ventured into the vast forests of William Penn’s claim, the cry “flood” has never ceased to strike terror in the hearts of those whose homes lay along the banks of the Susquehanna River.

(Milton) underwent many floodings before its incorporation as a borough in 1817. References are made in state historical annals of 32 separate major floods during the years preceding 1936.

From 1846 to 1894, crests were logged for nine floods, including eight of the greatest known on the Susquehanna in 244 years, but not including that of March 1936.

The first mention of floods on the Susquehanna was found in Hazard’s Register, which stated that at Harrisburg, the flood in 1740 was higher than that of March 15, 1784.

In its 75th Diamond Jubilee edition of Feb. 6, 1965, The Milton Standard... presented comprehensive accounts of the four major floods of the past 100 years, beginning with the inundation of 1865.

Just 18 years before, on Oct. 9, 1847, Milton had been visited by what then was believed to have been the most damaging, deepest flood in the history of the community.

The 1865 inundation shaded existing records by nearly 4 feet, and was destined to stand for nearly a quarter of a century, until Jun 1, 1889.

By Saturday morning, March 17 (1865), Front Street was covered by a depth of over 6 feet.

One of the major losses in the community was that of a bridge, linking the east shore with that of Union County and West Milton.

At Lewisburg, the river crested at 4 feet, nine inches higher than the flood of 18 years before.

Reference is made to The Standard’s 75th anniversary edition for information on the memorable deluge of 1889.

The heavy rains of Thursday, May 30, brought a 12-foot rise in the headwaters of the West Branch.

By Saturday morning, the rise in the river was ranging from 12 to 18 inches per hour and general alarm spread among citizens of the borough.

The area south of Center Street and the Limestone Run area were already flooded and residents had vacated their homes. The river, at that time, was rising at a speed of 7 mph.

Hundreds of the more fortunate Milton residents, who had escaped the wrath of the flood, took in friends, relatives and others whom the waters had made homeless. The Evangelical church and the Shakespeare school house were thrown open to accommodate the homeless.

A conservative estimate of local damage was set at $300,000.

The 1889 flood set depth records locally that were to stand until March 18, 1936, when (what was then) the most famous of all Susquehanna floods descended upon the community.

The memorable March flood of 1936 was probably the best documented of any inundation in the river’s history. It set new record depths for flooding and established a pattern of destruction that covered 75% of the river’s watershed.

In Milton, the Susquehanna crested at its highest mark in 42 years, when it reached 26 feet, exceeding the 1904 depth by 3 1/2 feet.

Stores on Front Street, especially those near the river bridge, suffered losses to merchandise... The post office, Central Grammar School and Pennsylvania Power and Light Company plant here all were flooded and the town was without power.

But the water receded, bringing with it a sense of false security that the worst was over. But the melting snow continued to pour into the already swollen streams, and to make matters worse, an unseasonable rain storm was brewing.

The heavy rain was the agent that sent the gushing waters down from the... mountains into the main streams and tributaries of dozens of rivers and creeks in Pennsylvania, bringing to the state the most wide-spread flood damage in its recorded history.

At 8:30 a.m. on the morning of Wednesday, March 18 (1936), the rising waters of the river crossed Front Street.

Worried residents of Front Street and areas adjacent, remembering the inundation of the previous week, began hectic preparations for the worst.

At noon on March 18, 1936, the Susquehanna River at Milton measured 28 feet, six inches, and was rising at the rate of 1-foot per hour.

The floodwaters rose to a depth of 36.25 feet and covered nearly every section of the town west of the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks, and north and south of Broadway.

Charles Haupt, 52, was killed when walls of the Milton Manufacturing Company collapsed while he was at work in the pump house. At the Milton High School, where hundreds of flood refugees were housed, a daughter was born to Mr. and Mrs. Walter Mausteller.

Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 ext. 117 or email kevin@standard-journal.com.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.