The Freedom Valley Chronicles: Hurricane Agnes

Forty-six years ago on this date – June 14, 1972 – a tropical depression formed above the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.  According to the National Hurricane Center, this storm became Hurricane Agnes.  For about the next ten days, people in several countries as well as in a number of American states looked to the skies as storm clouds formed above their communities.

Hurricane Agnes hit land in the Florida Panhandle on June 19, 1972, according to a news article of the same date in the Tallahassee Democrat.  On June 21, 1972, The Philadelphia Daily News reported that the United States Weather Service issued a flood warning for Southeastern Pennsylvania.

At the time, this hurricane was the costliest natural disaster to hit the United States.  The National Hurricane Center indicated that upwards of 122 people were killed by Hurricane Agnes throughout the country.

Hurricane Agnes devastated areas of Pennsylvania.  Communities along the Susquehanna River saw massive destruction.  Damage was extensive in Wilkes-Barre and nearby towns in the Wyoming Valley.

According to a news article dated June 20, 2015, in the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, the impact of Hurricane Agnes was extensive:  “In Pennsylvania, more than 68,000 homes and 3,000 businesses were destroyed, leaving more than 220,000 homeless.”  And that was just in Pennsylvania.

Since 1972, other named storms have caused even greater damage than Hurricane Agnes.  You may recall Alicia, Andrew, Harvey, Hugo, and Katrina, among other named storms.

For those people of a certain age, the arrival of Hurricane Agnes in the Freedom Valley was an event not forgotten.

As the Summer of 1972 began, water overwhelmed the banks of the Schuylkill as well as smaller streams and creeks in the region.  Land was flooded throughout Conshohocken, Plymouth, West Conshohocken, and Whitemarsh.

Today, we highlight some of the impact of Hurricane Agnes in Conshohocken and Spring Mill.  Much of the industry you view in these photographs is no longer in existence.  Instead, a number of the properties shown are now sites of residential complexes or vacant land being prepared for residential development.

If you have photos or recollections of Hurricane Agnes, please let us know at freedomvalleychronicles@gmail.com.

This photograph shows what Washington Street looked like in June of 1972.  C & D Batteries was located on that roadway at Cherry Street.

From dry land on Cherry Street, area residents view the railroad tracks and Washington Street under water in Conshohocken.

Another view of the flood waters surrounding the C & D Batteries plant in Conshohocken.  Note the car partially submerged under water in the middle of this photograph.

Flood waters overwhelmed Washington Street and the railroad tracks in front of the Ford & Kendig facility in Conshohocken.

The impact of Hurricane Agnes can sometimes be unseen.  Railroad tracks are not visible in this photo as the tracks are actually below the waters that flooded Conshohocken.

Looking down from Elm Street, Cherry Street became a temporary cul-de-sac thanks to the flood waters generated by Hurricane Agnes.

Hurricane Agnes impacted a number of communities throughout the Freedom Valley and beyond.

Water from the Schuylkill overwhelmed its banks as seen in this photograph of Spring Mill.  Rail service between Norristown and Philadelphia was canceled for a time because of the flooding.

The photographs of Conshohocken and Spring Mill are courtesy of Mr. L. J. Hyer.  The photos were taken by his father, Mr. J. L. Hyer, in June of 1972.

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Contact Richard McDonough at freedomvalleychronicles@gmail.com.

© 2018 Richard McDonough