Hurricane Agnes and the 1972 Flood

Forty years ago today, Hurricane Agnes moved from Pennsylvania into western New York, having wreaked havoc on much of the state.  In Pittsburgh, the storm dumped 11 inches of rain during a three-day period.

A view of the Three Sisters Bridges in Downtown Pittsburgh during the 1972 flood.

Subsequent flooding pushed waters to 11 feet above flood stage on June 24, 1972, forcing Mayor Pete Flaherty to ask downtown business owners to secure their buildings and send their employees home.

Point State Park during the 1972 flood

Hit particularly hard was the Fort Pitt Museum, which was then administered by the state of Pennsylvania (today, it’s run by the Heinz History Center).  Located near the confluence of Pittsburgh’s three rivers in Point State Park, the museum was under 4 feet of water during the flood.

The Fort Pitt Museum during the 1972 flood. Photograph by Julia L. Staniland.

According to a report later issued by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the site suffered an estimated $240,000 worth of damage.  Fortunately, the museum’s curator was able to move most of the collection to a secure location in the hours preceding the flood.

Cleaning up at the Fort Pitt Museum after the flood. Photograph by Julia L. Staniland

Read more about Hurricane Agnes and the 1972 flood at Essential Public Radio.


About Matthew Strauss

Chief Archivist at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.
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