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Williamsport, Pennsylvania Flood

May 1946

Williamsport, Elmira Areas Hit by Floods

Millions in Property Damage Reported;
At Least Six Persons in District killed

(By the Associated Press)
Flood waters flowed over banks of the swollen Susquehanna and its tributaries throughout Southern New York and most of North-Central Pennsylvania yesterday, claiming at least ten lives and damaging property worth millions of dollars in the sections most serious flood in 10 years.

River Continues to Rise
Williamsport, Pa. and Elmira N.Y communities of 43,000 and 50,000 respectively, were hardest hit.

The Susquehanna poured into Williamsport and surrounding Lycoming County Valley, reaching seven feet over flood level of 21.6 feet. Drenching rain fell again late yesterday and the river continued to rise.

The Chemung River, four feet above flood stage at its mid-afternoon peak of 21 feet, flowed over a third of Elmira, virtually inundating the area and disrupting utilities. Showers halted briefly after a 48-hour downpour then resumed.

All but one of the highways into Elmira were closed. The Coast Guard in New York said radiomen, trucks and portable radios for use in boats were being sent to handle emergency communications.

The Army released “ducks”-amphibious trucks- for flood relief at Williamsport.

Red Cross Chapters in Philadelphia, Reading and Bethlehem, Pa., were reported packed and ready to go if additional aid is asked in North Central Pennsylvania.

Business activity was halted in Williamsport, Lock Haven, and other Pennsylvania cities and towns. Water splashed into pressrooms at the Lock Haven Express and Williamsport Sun, suspending both afternoon publications.

Known dead:
CHARLES GILMORE and RICHARD BOWMAN, farmers from Mill Hall, Pa., sucked into waters trying to clear debris from a factory dam; GEORGE RAYMOND BARTON, 6, drowned in a rain-swollen creek at Harrisburg, Pa.; RICHARD HALLER, 66, Garland, Pa., heart attack while clearing a slide; MRS. WILLIAM WOMER, 30, her children, WILLIAM JR., 2 and DIANNE, 3, all of gang mills, near Corning, NY and one unidentified girl in New York State.

At least ten others were reported missing.

Binghamton, NY and Wilkes-Barre, Sunbury and Kingston appeared safe behind an extensive system of dikes.

3,500 Families Affected
The Pennsylvania Flood Emergency Committee reported that two persons were killed and six others missing near Williamsport.

Their identity was not immediately established.

Meanwhile the committee said 3,500 families have been affected by the flood in Williamsport alone. In one of the three Red Cross shelters set up there, seven cases of measles have broken out.

The tiny village of Hemlock, Pa., was isolated as rain-loosened dirt and rock cascaded onto the only highway entrance.

Airports were under water at Towanda and Wilkes-Barre, Pa., a heavy fog hampered all flying and made rescue work more difficult.

At Towanda, forty miles north of Wilkes-Barre, six persons were trapped in the rear portion of a home after surging waters broke up the front portion of the house.

The Pennsylvania Flood Emergency Committee arranged to move a thousand cots into the Williamsport area to assist in the evacuation.

Meanwhile, far to the south, along the lower Susquehanna, near Lancaster and York, Pa., rising waters were reported and the crest was not expected until today.

A cloudburst Monday following four days of almost continual heavy rains throughout the entire area caused the rising waters. Federal and state weather reporters said they were unable to predict the crest.

In, 1936, more then $200,000,000 in property was lost, 80 persons killed, 2,800 homes destroyed and 55,000 others damaged by a flood that swept many sections of Pennsylvania.

In Williamsport, damage was estimated by PAUL GILMORE, an editor of the Williamsport Sun as at least $1,500,000 compared with $5,000,000 in the 1936 disaster.

Business Area Flooded
Less then one block of the downtown business district was out of water with the river running two feet deep in Third St., one of the main business thoroughfares.

“It is curb deep outside out office”, GILMORE said, “There are boats operating all through the business district carrying on evacuation work.”

All utilities, including the city’s water supply, are intact while sufficient food is on hand, GILMORE said. All highways leading from the city are closed by high water except a secondary rural route to Ball’s Mill’s, which he added, “may be impassable too at several points now.”
Advised To Boil Water
“It has been raining briskly here for an hour,” GILMORE said in mid-afternoon.

In Harrisburg, the State Health Department announced all residents of flood stricken areas have been advised to boil drinking water supplies.

Chief Engineer H.E. MOSES dispatched seven state sanitary engineers into he flood area with portable chlorinating outfits to test water supplies. The department’s nurses were also alerted.

The Bradford Era, Bradford, PA 29 May 1946


At least 13 persons drowned and four others were missing in the muddy waters, which started rising rapidly Monday night, after four days of almost continuous rains. Estimates of damage exceeded $3,000,000. Thousands were homeless.

The Red Cross announced two of its workers and a young woman drowned in flood swollen Morris Run, Tioga County, Pa. Victims were WILLIAM HART, Red Cross Chairman in Morris Run; EDWARD GRAHAM and MISS INNES WILLIAMS, otherwise unidentified.

CECILE KENNEDY, Red Cross field director at Harrisburg, reported MISS WILLIAMS was trapped on a bridge after a cloudburst turned the stream into a racing torrent Monday night. The two workers went to assist her and the span collapsed, throwing all three into the water.

Syracuse Herald Journal, Syracuse, NY 29 May 1946

Transcribed by Trish.  Thank you, Trish!


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