THE GREAT FLOOD OF ’72 REVISITED



June, 2007, marked the 35th anniversary of the, “Great Flood of ’72,” caused by the tropical storm Agnes, which battered the Eastern seaboard with fierce winds, torrential rains, causing death and destruction from South Carolina to New York. At least 117 lives were lost in the fray, resulting in $3.1 billion in damages. This area was hit hard when Hurricane Agnes brought as much as 16 inches of rain to most of western and central New York and resulted in what was termed the most extensive and disastrous flood in New York's history. In New York State, twenty-four people died, and damage was $703 million.

Our little town of Almond was not exempt from Agnes’ destruction. Yellowed newspaper clippings and photographs give graphic accounts of the devastation the area suffered. Ron Rawleigh, of Longwood, FL, sent a large brown envelope containing several items, including the June 21, 1972 Evening Tribune whose front page headlines read: “FLOOD HITS AREA, LIST 2 MISSING; MORE RAIN DUE.” The full page story, written by the late Bob Oakes and Tim Lewis, begins: “Torrential rains spawned by tropical Hurricane Agnes truck Northern Steuben and Eastern Allegany Counties early today spilling more than five inches of rain on an already water clogged area and resulted in flash flooding and heavy damage.

Hundreds of area residents were forced to flee from their homes which were flooded by nearby streams and two persons, John Ide and his daughter, Amy, of 22 Main St, in Almond, were missing after being swept away in the swirling flood waters. Mrs. Ide and another daughter, Rene, 16, who were with the victims in a boat when it overturned as they were attempting to flee from the flooded area of their home, were later rescued.

Almond firemen received their first emergency call shortly after 3:15 a.m. today, as the Canacadea Creek overflowed its banks and threatened Main Street homes in the village. . . . A 40 foot wall of water was being held between two lanes of the Southern Tier Expressway under construction near Almond. Local officials expressed concern that one of the lanes might collapse and endanger the village,” the story continued. Because of that threat to life and property, all residents of the Village of Almond and those in the path of this potential catastrophe were evacuated immediately. Some went to stay with friends and family out of harm’s way, but a vast majority went up to the Alfred Almond Central School, where they stayed for nearly a week, waiting for the wall of water to go away. It was the beginning of a long, frightening time that will never be forgotten by those who experienced it.

In the Jan/Feb/Mar 2007 AHS newsletter, we asked you, our readers, to provide stories and memories of this disastrous time in our lives. We are printing the stories we received just as they were written. We hope that they will evoke memories from more of you – and that you will take the time to jot them down or call me. If we receive more, we will include them in the next issue of the AHS newsletter.

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Jim Woughter, who now lives in Addison, was on the Town of Almond board when the Flood of 1972 devastated the area. He writes in an email: “The ’72 flood is such a large story involving so many people who contributed so much that it will be difficult to do the article in a single issue. I know personally that the ’72 flood (June 21st and for the next three or four years) were the busiest time of my life. Working at the college full time, spending 30 to 40 hours a week on the documentation of expenses for the Federal monies, raising a young family (3 boys ages 2, 7, 10) and trying to remodel an old house . . . (I am glad I was a young 33 year old with a lot of energy as today I don’t know if I could keep up such a frantic/intense pace for such an extended period of time.)” He shared some thoughts and insights into people who were involved in the months and even years of the restoration process: “Town Supervisor Gary Fraser was certainly a significant person with the flood and rehab afterwards. Dale Lorow was also on the town board, as was Helene Phelan, Bob Emerson, and I believe George Brown of Bishopville.”


He cited Jim Winters, highway superintendent, as “a significant part of this recovery,” and his highway crew of Don Washburn, Dick Washburn, Mike Winters, Kim Costello, Steve Bracken, Dave Terwilliger and Larry Perry in the “hectic time from June 21 to July 10 to get roads and bridges open. Numerous department of highway employees will have stories that Larry Perry should relate to us. . .

As bookkeeper/accountant for the Federal Disaster flood monies, Jim remembers: “At one time all the financials for the Federal monies were stored overhead in the town highway barn and would make for an interesting Historical Society project if they can be found. Also the town board minutes from the flood in mid-June for the next 3+ years. Carol Norton was a big help in that she helped with the tedium of documenting and entering the daily work logs into the appropriate accounts for reimbursement of Federal monies. Arlene McMahon will have much information also as she was very instrumental in the support and documentation of the Supervisor’s efforts. Jim Emery of Belfast was the New York State Deputy Minority (Majority??) Leader of the New York State Assembly and helped open many doors at the State and Federal level for the Town. Steve Myers and Craig Braack took hundreds of photos that were invaluable in getting federal rebuilding monies.


Patty (Harvey) Curran of Alfred sent this story: “My first husband, Jack Harvey and I owned Harvey’s Restaurant (now Muhleisen’s) when the flood of 1972 hit. It seemed like we had just closed the Inn and got home and into bed when the fire whistle blew. Jack, who was a fireman, got up and got dressed and started out to help. He soon came back upstairs and said; ‘Get up and get the kids up – we have to go to the Inn and get stuff up off the floor and lower shelves. There’s water running right down Main Street – up over my shoes.’ Our three boys were in their teens then, and our daughter was 10. We lived in the big white house next door to the Inn.

We all worked as fast as we could – putting chairs on tables, bar stools on top of the bar and groceries, pots and pans up on higher shelves. Soon however, the water was up over the table tops and we were warned to get out of town. Our friends, Marty and Emmy Curran asked us to stay with them in Alfred for the duration. We were very grateful to them.

When the waters finally went down – and we could get back into town (about a week later)– we were greeted with a real mess. Everything was covered with flood mud. Thankfully, at our home the water had come up to the top of the cellar stairs, but never got into the house proper. We had to have our furnace rebuilt – and throw out our canned goods, etc., that had been in the cellar – but no damage was done in the house itself. However, three baby ducks we had in a pen on the back porch had drowned.
“The Inn, however, was a different matter. It took us over a month to get reopened. The Health Department brought in a dumpster and we dumped all the food out of our refrigerators and freezers and everything that the water had touched. They even made us dump gallon cans of pizza cheese that were on the top shelves, where the water had never reached – because the cans showed a little rust. It was ironic that, although we could not get back into town, the meat delivery truck had delivered our meat order for the week and, because they couldn’t get in, had left it on the back porch – so we not only had to throw it away, but had to pay for it, too. Someone had also gotten in and helped themselves to much of the liquor on the back bar – and taken our pourers – which we had to replace. We had only been in business a couple of years at the time – and weren’t even sure we would ever recover enough – cleaning, redecorating, buying new stock, etc – to reopen. But, with the help of many people, we did.

The men used shovels and trucks to take away much of the mud and trash. Then they used squeegees to squeeze the mud out of the rugs, which were then cleaned. All other areas were scrubbed and sanitized and finally, about a month later, we reopened. We later had to replace much of the carpeting because it rolled up and shrunk in spots. Still, we felt blessed – we had much help from many people – and a low % loan from the government to resupply. Also, we were just thankful that our buildings were still there to clean and use. Our neighbors lost a trailer and a home.

We also owned our farm off McHenry Valley Road at the time. We had three pigs in a pen down by the creek, using an old house that had stood there for years, as a pen. After the flood the house was gone – and we never saw the pigs again. Whether they drowned – or what, we never knew. We had driven into the farm by going through the creek at that time (there is now a bridge.) Since the creek was flooded, Jack and the boys had to walk in over the hill from the Alfred side to take care of our cattle during this time. Thankfully, the rest of our cattle – and our family – all survived, and life

He cited Jim Winters, highway superintendent, as “a significant part of this recovery,” and his highway crew of Don Washburn, Dick Washburn, Mike Winters, Kim Costello, Steve Bracken, Dave Terwilliger and Larry Perry in the “hectic time from June 21 to July 10 to get roads and bridges open. Numerous department of highway employees will have stories that Larry Perry should relate to us. . .

As bookkeeper/accountant for the Federal Disaster flood monies, Jim remembers: “At one time all the financials for the Federal monies were stored overhead in the town highway barn and would make for an interesting Historical Society project if they can be found. Also the town board minutes from the flood in mid-June for the next 3+ years. Carol Norton was a big help in that she helped with the tedium of documenting and entering the daily work logs into the appropriate accounts for reimbursement of Federal monies. Arlene McMahon will have much information also as she was very instrumental in the support and documentation of the Supervisor’s efforts. Jim Emery of Belfast was the New York State Deputy Minority (Majority??) Leader of the New York State Assembly and helped open many doors at the State and Federal level for the Town. Steve Myers and Craig Braack took hundreds of photos that were invaluable in getting federal rebuilding monies.


Patty (Harvey) Curran of Alfred sent this story: “My first husband, Jack Harvey and I owned Harvey’s Restaurant (now Muhleisen’s) when the flood of 1972 hit. It seemed like we had just closed the Inn and got home and into bed when the fire whistle blew. Jack, who was a fireman, got up and got dressed and started out to help. He soon came back upstairs and said; ‘Get up and get the kids up – we have to go to the Inn and get stuff up off the floor and lower shelves. There’s water running right down Main Street – up over my shoes.’ Our three boys were in their teens then, and our daughter was 10. We lived in the big white house next door to the Inn.

We all worked as fast as we could – putting chairs on tables, bar stools on top of the bar and groceries, pots and pans up on higher shelves. Soon however, the water was up over the table tops and we were warned to get out of town. Our friends, Marty and Emmy Curran asked us to stay with them in Alfred for the duration. We were very grateful to them.

When the waters finally went down – and we could get back into town (about a week later)– we were greeted with a real mess. Everything was covered with flood mud. Thankfully, at our home the water had come up to the top of the cellar stairs, but never got into the house proper. We had to have our furnace rebuilt – and throw out our canned goods, etc., that had been in the cellar – but no damage was done in the house itself. However, three baby ducks we had in a pen on the back porch had drowned.
“The Inn, however, was a different matter. It took us over a month to get reopened. The Health Department brought in a dumpster and we dumped all the food out of our refrigerators and freezers and everything that the water had touched. They even made us dump gallon cans of pizza cheese that were on the top shelves, where the water had never reached – because the cans showed a little rust. It was ironic that, although we could not get back into town, the meat delivery truck had delivered our meat order for the week and, because they couldn’t get in, had left it on the back porch – so we not only had to throw it away, but had to pay for it, too. Someone had also gotten in and helped themselves to much of the liquor on the back bar – and taken our pourers – which we had to replace. We had only been in business a couple of years at the time – and weren’t even sure we would ever recover enough – cleaning, redecorating, buying new stock, etc – to reopen. But, with the help of many people, we did.

The men used shovels and trucks to take away much of the mud and trash. Then they used squeegees to squeeze the mud out of the rugs, which were then cleaned. All other areas were scrubbed and sanitized and finally, about a month later, we reopened. We later had to replace much of the carpeting because it rolled up and shrunk in spots. Still, we felt blessed – we had much help from many people – and a low % loan from the government to resupply. Also, we were just thankful that our buildings were still there to clean and use. Our neighbors lost a trailer and a home.

We also owned our farm off McHenry Valley Road at the time. We had three pigs in a pen down by the creek, using an old house that had stood there for years, as a pen. After the flood the house was gone – and we never saw the pigs again. Whether they drowned – or what, we never knew. We had driven into the farm by going through the creek at that time (there is now a bridge.) Since the creek was flooded, Jack and the boys had to walk in over the hill from the Alfred side to take care of our cattle during this time. Thankfully, the rest of our cattle – and our family – all survived, and life

Stephen S Crandall of Alfred was due to graduate with the Class of 1972 when Agnes changed their plans:

Alfred had some interesting issues during the 1972 flood: Babies that were born at the Health Center because no one could get over to Wellsville (and of course part of the hospital was taken off by the flood) . . . manhole covers popping in the streets because of the water pressure . . . the parts of the road between Alfred and Almond that got washed away and required a detour through Shaw Road for several months . . . someone coming from Andover died when they drove through the barricades and went into one of those holes . . . and so on.

Some of my Almond specific memories involved my offering to have Pat (Montgomery -- later to be his wife) stay up in Alfred with my family and her unwillingness to stay, because it was so exciting down at the school. I also managed to get to skip the Physics regents because the morning we were supposed to take it was the day the flood hit. And of course our high school graduation was postponed a week because we couldn't have the graduation when so much of the Almond population was living in the gym!”

Although not a resident of Almond at the time, Marilyn Zirkelbach Cimino was very concerned about her parents, the late Don and Serena Zirkelbach, who lived on the Whitney Valley Road. She writes this memory in an email from Lakeland, FL: “You asked for stories about the flood in 1972. I have a little story that still makes me chuckle when we think back on it. Jesse and I heard about the terrible flooding taking place in the Southern Tier and how everyone from Almond had been taken up to the school. We talked it over, and decided we would try to get into Almond, and up to the school and RESCUE Mom and Dad from having to sleep on cots and etc. and bring them back to the comforts of our home in Rochester. Well, taking back roads and etc. we made it to the outskirts of Almond. We were met by Glenn Rossman, and we told him how we were down to take Mom and Dad back to Rochester with us. Glenn escorted us through town to the school, and amid all the people we found Mom and Dad. When we told them, we were there to take them back with us, their response was NO WAY!!! They wanted to be where all the activity and action was, and they wanted to be able to return to their home when the okay was given. So we got to visit with them and others, and then we headed back to Rochester by ourselves.”

Our neighbors in Bishopville suffered as well. Alice Harrington sent us a photo of the back up of water from the Arkport Dam, as well as this photo of the bridge on North Almond Valley Road. More stories from Bishopville anyone??


We know that there are more memories of this unforgettable time in Almond’s history out there. If you contact me, we will include them in the next issue. Please call me at (607) 276 6760, write me at PO Box 236, Almond, NY 14804 or email me: lee_donna@frontiernet.net. Deadline will be September 1, 2007.