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Bradford, Pennsylvania Flood

May 1946

Bradford Cleans Up After Disastrous Flood

Housewives and merchants in Bradford yesterday and last night wielded shovels, brooms and hoses as they bent to the job of cleaning the mess of debris, silt and filth left on the wake of Monday night’s spectacular flood.

Million Dollar Damage Here

Estimates of the damage in Bradford rose to more than one million dollars yesterday after the waters had receded and the city surveyed the muck and silt that has settled in the first floors of homes, stores, hotels, theaters, restaurants and industrial plants.

“Closed” signs hung at the entrances of the stores in Main, Mechanic, East and West Washington Sts., while employees shoveled and scraped the filth from the floors. For the most part, merchants escaped heavy losses of stock, having moved it to higher shelves at the first indication of danger.

Gaping holes were left in Mechanic, Boylston, East and West Washington Sts., by the waters that heaved sidewalks and ate into foundations of buildings.

Many Heating Units Wrecked

A steady throb of motors beat through the day and night as pumps lifted water from basements revealing sorely wrecked heating units.

From the porches and clothes lines of residential districts hung mud-caked rugs and articles of clothing while curbs were hidden beneath piles of debris moved from the stricken homes.

Last night no water remained in city streets, but a thick coating of mud covered the thoroughfares.

Firemen Pump Out Cellars

Firemen last night were still at work pumping out cellars and basements. They had been on duty since Monday, had worked through the night and yesterday without sleep.

Some of their reports show the tremendous quantity of water trapped as the flood-waters receded. St. Benard School basement held seven feet of water; The Emery, more than 5 feet; The IOOF Building, 6 feet; Option House, 5 feet, St. Benard Rectory, 8feet.

In the midst of their activity, firemen responded to two alarms in the early morning hours. At 2:15 a.m., grease from a frier in the Mayflower Restaurant filled the building with smoke. No service was required there nor at a second alarm received 10 minutes later from the Star Garage.

Barbour St. Bridge Heaved

The north side of Barbour St. bridge was heaved by the force of water beneath it. City employees attempting to tow a 50-barrel oil tank lodged against the bridge at the height of the flood almost lost their truck when the weight of the tank started to pull the truck into the creek.

Yesterday patrons of The Emery and white collar workers of the Hooker-Fulton building offices had to hike to the upper floors when elevators were forced out of operation by flood damages.

Floors in many business establishments and homes were badly warped by the flood waters.

Hanley Co. Loses Records

The Bradford Theater yesterday still resembled an indoor swimming pool as pumps labored to remove the water. It is estimated by Manager Hayes Gabarino that hundreds of seats must be replaced at a cost of $25 apiece.

Hanley Brick Co. suffered the loss of records dating back to 1931 when the basement was flooded.

Lawrence G. Dana, Director of the Bradford office of the State Department of Public Assistance in West Washington St., yesterday announced that his offices would reopen this morning.

The Bradford Era, Bradford, PA 29 May 1946


Highlights Of Bradford Flood Scene

Bradfordians trapped in Main St. Monday night by the swirling torrent grinned broadly as they noticed the Grand Theater’s billing, “Cornered.” But they found no music in the second of the double bill, “Riverboat Rhythm.”

The usually timid Tuna Creek has turned into a flood monster time and again in Bradford’s history, but Monday night the old stream surpassed all previous performances as it staged probably the wildest time of its life. Bradfordians who have been close to the challenge of the Tuna for more than 50 years were of the opinion this one topped anything that has gone before.

As in all Bradford floors, the low spots on Barbour, Amm, Forman and Kennedy were among the first to be hit. Once the Tuna had cleared the banks it turned Barbour, East Washington, Boylston and other streets into racing streams.

Not a life was lost, but many persons had narrow escapes. An unidentified man was swept off his feet in East Washington St., during the flood’s height and managed to save his own life by grabbing a parking meter. He clung to this until help arrived. Orrie Clevland went down in Main St., and was dragged out of the muddy waters gasping for breath.

Ralph’s Shoe Store was one of the lucky places that escaped on Main St. Not a drop of water entered the store. Almost directly across the street Nichols Brothers Clothing Store had eight inches of water covering the floor.

When W. E. LaBrack came here in January to take over management of the Holley Hotel, he had no idea he would be giving a diving exhibition in the lobby. Water was 32 inches deep in the lobby when LaBrack, standing on top of the cigar counter, lost his balance. He started to fall and actually did a head-first dive. “Never touched bottom, either,” remarked LaBrack.

Fellow merchants on Mechanic St. yesterday felt that J. H. Bickert of the Bickert-Leonard Drug Store is a champion flood fighter. Despite the fact that the store took the full force of the water as it rushed down Barbour St., only a mere trickle entered the front door. Mr. Bickert took a look up Barbour St., at 5:30 Monday afternoon and went to work at once preparing for the flood.

The Davis Bakery, which adjoins the drug store, also was well prepared and Fred Johnson, owner, stated he did not lose any baking material. However, a thousand or more paper bags and boxes which he received only recently and had stored in a garage back of the bakery were completely ruined. “The thing is you can’t replace them,” stated Johnson.

Yeoman service was rendered during the height of the flood by the following who donated and manned trucks: Layton Van Dyke, Pete Perine, Daniel Stidd, Ernest Pessia, Pete DePalma and Jim Maduri. Frank Dehm brought a boat down from Browntown and with Frank Kersteter helped evacuate the stranded. Bob Pringle has a boat in service and Bill Sisley also was at the scene effecting recues.

St. Bernard’s School did not open yesterday morning and no date for the resumption of classes has been set. Announcement regarding the return to school will be made at the Thursday morning masses.
Louis Blumenfeld, one of the city’s few cigar makers, was practically out of business yesterday. His plant is located on West Washington St., where damage was high. Most of his tobacco stock is a loss and valuable cigar molds are water soaked beyond reclaim. “I was flooded out at Farmers Valley in 1942,” remarked Blumenfeld, “and now it happens again.”

The Tuna took a lot of short cuts Monday night. It raced down Barbour Street, zoomed through the Smith Brothers Alley and broke through the back door of a billiard room on Pine St. The water carried away half of the front end of the store in its mad dash for newfound freedom.

Guests of the Holley Hotel were treated to food and drink by the management and started a couple of tables of bridge when they finally were marooned on the higher floors. Telephone service in the hotel went out at 8 p.m. Boiler rooms and cellar were filled to capacity this morning. The management could not estimate the damage, but it will run into the thousands.

Community Baseball Park, home of the PONY League Wings, escaped damage. Water was up 18 inches in right field and touched one of the concession stands, but was dryer yesterday than it has been in weeks.

John Kramer, one of the city’s oldest barbers, was marooned in his shop on Mechanic St., throughout the entire flood. By the time the water was a foot deep in the store he figured he would stick out.

The Bradford Era, Bradford, PA 29 May 1946

Transcribed by Dawn.  Thanks, Dawn!


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