Hurricane Agnes Floods The Corning, NY Area 50 Years Ago
50 years is a long time. 50 years ago, I was just completing my junior year in high school and excited for a fun summer before beginning my final year of high school. I thought it would d be a summer of taking it easy and having fun. That plan was about to change.
It was 50 years ago (June 23rd, 1972) when the remnants of Hurricane Agnes hit the northeast U.S. And the Corning-Painted Post area where I grew up, was hit the worst by its effects, including heavy rain and major flooding. By the time it reached my hometown, Hurricane Agnes was classified as Tropical Storm Agnes.
I lived just outside of Painted Post in a valley, where we only experienced basement flooding, although some roads and bridges were impassable. But the Corning-Painted Post area suffered heavy damage. Sadly, 18 people in the area lost their lives in a flood no one had ever suspected would happen.
Some homes and businesses were knocked off their foundation, countless buildings were heavily damaged by the flood waters that spilled over the Chemung River. The front of the local Mcdonald's building collapsed. A railroad bridge that stood over the Chemung River was destroyed with twisted metal lying in the river. After the waters receded, the greater Corning area was left devastated.
But the amazing thing was, that the local community immediately banded together and got to work to rebuild. It would not be an easy task. It would take years to rebuild. My summer of leisure would soon turn out to be one of the hardest working times in my life.
Corning Glass Works (now Corning Inc.) took the lead and one of the things they did, was to form Y.E.S., which stood for Youth Emergency Services. The word went out that they were looking to young people to be a part of several teams to work throughout the community and help clean up flood-damaged homes. It was a paying job.
I signed up and eventually became a team leader. I witnessed the horror of what a major flood can do. Many people in the Triple Cities area who have dealt with flooding know exactly what I mean.
We entered flood-damaged residences, cleaning out mud, and throwing out damaged household items, including refrigerators filled with rotting food. The smells of the aftermath of that flood were something I will never forget. It was sickening, but we worked through it, and I'm proud that I was a part of the rebuilding.
The Corning-Painted Post area bounced back and is now a major tourist area. What an amazing transformation from destruction 50 years ago to what the area looks like today. But for those of us who lived through the flood of '72, we'll never forget.
You can read about the details of the flood of '72 along with some pictures on the Corning Architecture website.