[elmira-ny.com] - Keeping memories alive...photo courtesy of Tom Drum...

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  - Edward La Mura -

I was a Development Administrator for the Facilities Development Corporation. The Corporation was responsible for the Design and Construction for the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene of The Elmira Psychiatric Center.

The Agnes flood added to record rain fall in the Allegheny Mountains. Our field Construction Managers, Streeter Construction Inc., had an on site representative, Jack Spanbauer from Elmira. I was returning from another job site near Buffalo New York to my New York city office. We flew through the most horrific thunder storms that were associated with hurricane Agnes.

We were aware that our Buildings in Elmira were in a "Flood Plain" and had thought we designed adequate protection for the building. We monitored the flood level and our worst fears were realized when the level was over the top of the flood wall. We had water up to the middle of the third floor of the main residential Building and well over some of our lower buildings. Jack had called in to tell us he heard all the alarms in the basement equipment rooms ringing and when all went silent he left his office and saw the water coming up the street across from St. Joseph's Hospital. He immediately left the site only to later return via the raised railroad bed to see the Center surrounded by the flood waters.
When I returned to Elmira after the flood I was struck by the thick mud with pools of water, with river fish in them, and the low layer of the fine brown dust in the air. We had major damage and settlement of many concrete slabs. One portion of our buildings, the lower level "bomb shelters" had their walls water proofed to prevent any round water penetration. Well these rooms filled with water and of course held it in. These had filled with flood debris. The most seemed to be frozen turkeys from some super market upstream.

Years and a lot of money restored the facility and just today (9/7/2011) I heard a New York City weatherman note that the southern tier was due rain that would rival that of the 72 Agnes storm. My thoughts turned to that "Five Hundred year storm" and thinking it is not five hundred years again.