Pittsburgh, PA Flood, Mar 1936 - Flood Races Through Buildings

PITTSBURGH - At least eighteen dead in floods engulfing Pittsburgh - West Pennsylvania area, hundreds homeless, millions in property damage, fires.

Reno Evening Gazette, Reno, NV 18 Mar 1936



Flood Races Through Many Buildings in Business District of City

Loss of Water Service to 250,000 Citizens Is Also Threatened Today

PITTSBURGH, March 18-(AP) - (4 P.M.) - By telephone to New York: A general power failure in Pittsburgh late today interrupted most communications to the rest of the nation.

PITTSBURGH, March 18--(AP) - (Copyright 1936 by the Associated Press) -Pittsburgh harassed on all sides by the worst flood in its history faced darkness and business paralysis today.

A series of disastrous explosions and fires brought more suffering to the city. At least forty-nine were hurt in the blasts and fires.

Thirty persons many of them women and children refugees from the flood were injured as a blast tore apart a home in suburban Lawrenceville. The other explosions occurred in industrial plants injuring firemen or residents living nearby the factories.

Two major power plants were under water and a third was endangered. Should the last plant go power service would be completely suspended.

All street car service was stopped.


Mayor William N. McNair proclaimed a holiday. Schools and colleges were ordered closed.

Flood waters raced through dozens of buildings in the main business district and hundreds remained marooned in them.

Officials said a shortage of food would appear soon.

The Red Cross took charge of organizing thousands of volunteers for rescue and rehabilitation work.

The rivers reached the record-breaking stage of 44.1 feet, 19.1 above flood stage.

Explosions and fires added to the gravity of the situation.

There were eighteen known dead in Pennsylvania twelve of them in the western section. There were unverified reports of three other drownings and six persons were reported lost in eastern Pennsylvania.


Damage mounted into the millions and the wealthy business section known as the "Golden Triangle" in Pittsburgh was among the hardest hit.

Thousands were homeless in Pittsburgh, Johnstown and the other devastated communities. Disease, hunger, and misery stalked behind the waters.

Loss of water service to 250,000 citizens also was threatened.

Fire and explosions caused nineteen injuries in the city and it was feared some might be dead in an explosion in suburban Etna.

Uncounted thousands were already marooned in the western Pennsylvania flooded areas.

Department stores, theatres and other big business structures in Pittsburgh were surrounded with ten feet of water, marooning hundreds of workers and shoppers.

Fire companies, taxed to their utmost rescuing hundreds from dwellings and buildings in the metropolitan area, found themselves forced to cope with disastrous explosions and fires.

An explosion in the Etna Nut and Bolt Company plant in suburban Etna injured at least seven persons, and destroyed the factory and eleven houses.


There were fears some might have died after the blast as families were separated in the rush for safety and many persons jumped into Union street, filled with water to a depth of six feet.

Blazes in the Crucible Steel plant, the Waverly Oil Works and the Pittsburgh Steel Spring Company called out scores of firemen. Five were hurt in the Crucible fire and seven at the Waverly plant.

Explosion after explosion roared through the Lawrenceville district from the Waverly refinery. Firemen battled in hip deep water to prevent the spread of flames.

Thousands of spectators fled in panic after the explosions.

The Golden Triangle, in which are located some of the biggest stores and businesses in Pittsburgh, was half under water. More streets were flooded hourly.

Pittsburgh became a virtually isolated city with outbound traffic at a standstill.

Telephone service in the flooded triangle was disrupted while the hundreds of marooned persons vainly sought to get away.

Chief of Police Harry Klink called on state officers and agencies for help, declaring the city was under military rule to prevent vandalism while the waters go away.

Altoona, Kittanning, Connelsville, Brownsville, Dubois, Kane, Hollidaysburg, Oil City, Point Marion, Towanda, Tyrone and Vandergrift were some of the other cities which were isolated or in bad shape from the swirling floods.

There were three thousand homeless in Vandergrift, a steel town, and public officials called upon every agency to provide food.

Pittsburgh's flood emergency commission went into session to make ready for the days of rehabilitation work which will lie ahead.


From most of the big downtown buildings, trapped employes stared out windows at rising waters. Thousands who went to work jammed traffic while they satisfied their curiosity. Then they went home. Their jobs were under water.

The First Nation, Farmers & Peoples Pittsburgh Trust Company banks were closed while clerks worked rapidly, moving valuable papers from sunken vaults to upper floors.

The water rose with unprecedented rapidity. Market street, dry at 8:00 a.m., was hip-deep at ten Central police station was flooded ten feet deep.

The Sixteenth street bridge, last link between north side and downtown, was closed.

At Loew's Penn Theatre, struck by the flood just as the last show let out last night, Manager Mike Cullen said he and about forty others were marooned without food or water.

Cullen said the water was up to the loges.

Penn avenue, a main thoroughfare three blocks from the river bank, was under water so high that only tops of automobiles could be seen.

Two big department stores, Horne's and Rosenbaum's, were closed along with other adjacent business houses.


Reports came in of scores of persons caught in downtown buildings. Liberty avenue, a through artery in the heart of the business section, was rapidly filling.

A half dozen suburbs, among them Oakmont, Blawknox and Aspinwall, were cut off from the city proper.

Water four feet deep swirled through suburban Wilmerding.

The East Pittsburgh works of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company shut down when waters covered the floor at the lower end of the plant.

Forty girls employed by the Vernon D. Price Company on the north side, were brought to safety in boats.

To the north side, the high Sixteenth street bridge was the only one of a dozen still traversable.

In the Roosevelt hotel on Penn avenue, 575 guests and employes were marooned without food, water or heat. Seven feet of water was in the lobby.

Reno Evening Gazette, Reno, NV 18 Mar 1936

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