Flooding is old news

By KIMBERLY WEYANDT

Spring, 1829

According to the “Goodrich History of Wayne County,” this flood broke away the embankments between “the pulpet” and the new channel, and part of the river resumed its old course. The Delaware and Hudson Canal was damaged. Repairs were very costly and were not completed until midsummer.

March 23, 1865

An account in The Herald recorded highest water ever known in Lackawaxen River, one foot higher than any previous time. It all started on Thursday with heavy rains and snow. Henwood Bridge swept away, Goodman Bridge split in two and several breaks resulted in the canal. Friday night the river receded. Friday morning Keen’s dam near Waymart went out causing alarm, but water only reached as far as No. 2 pond, 13 miles distant.

March 17, 1875

An ice gorge in the Delaware River destroyed the Port Jervis suspension bridge.

1898

Ice jam reached the bottom of a bridge under construction. The bridge was later raised six feet.

February 28, 1902

The Wayne Independent reported the greatest deluge in Honesdale’s history, caused by ice gorge in the Lackawaxen with “one-third of the place submerged.” Main Street bridge was carried away and houses were ripped off their foundations. Seen floating down the river were logs, household items, and a live black pig on a large block of ice. No lives were lost but thousands of dollars in damage was reported. Huge cakes of ice floated down and piled up on the sides of streets and walks. Central Park was covered with two or three feet of water and ice.

October 9, 1903: ‘The Great Pumpkin Flood’

The Wayne County Citizen reported a flood preceded by heavy rains for three days. The top crest of the flood was recorded at 23.1 ft. in Port Jervis. Pumpkins could be seen floating down the river. A bridge being built to replace one destroyed in 1902 was swept away, along with two temporary bridges. The eastern span of Sixth Street Bridge in Honesdale was struck and put out of commission; Stone Arch Bridge lost stones; Erie Bridge over Middle Creek and Paupack at Hawley was crippled. Bridges lost included Honesdale and Ford’s, Farnham and Goodman, Iron Eddy, Hawley, Salem, Seelyville, three on Ball’s Creek, Scott Township, three or more on Shehocton Creek, Pethickss in Damascus, Rieflers in Carley Brook and Jones in Tyler Hill. The Erie Railroad also suffered greatly.

March 8, 1904

The Cochecton Bridge washed out over the Delaware. The new Pond Eddy Bridge was opened to wagon and foot traffic after the original bridge was washed out in a storm in the early 1900s. Stream gages at Port Jervis record the top crest of this flood as being 25.5 ft.

July 28, 1934

Heavy rainfall resulted in washouts. Erie tracks were inundated. Middle Creek forced out a wing abutment of the bridge over the railroad pass leading to Marble Hill.

March 18, 1936

The pedestrian bridge at Ninth Street in Honesdale went out Wednesday morning. Two bridges washed out in Clinton Township. Private bridges were also carried away. $122,400 was spent on repairs.

1938

Heavy rains resulted in $28,400 of repairs on bridges in Wayne County.

May 1942

896 homes damaged in Honesdale and 34 bridges destroyed in Wayne County, including some over 60 feet in span. A great many other bridges were damaged either by being under scoured or when their approaches were carried away. The locations of streams changed and new flood channels were created which had to be repaired. Damage expenditures were stimated at $48,500. Barryville flood gages measure this crest at 23.19 feet.

1948

Gages in Barryville recorded the top crest of this flood at 20.07 ft.

1951

Though the river was low and the ice on the river dropped, creating a damn and backing up the water in Port Jervis. One person was killed.

August 2, 1955

Flooding was the result of Hurricanes Conny and Diane. Sparrowbush and Port Jervis were evacuated. There was a tremendous loss of life. At a local camp, children trapped on the roof of one of the buildings perished when water levels rose suddenly. Stream gages at Port Jervis report the crest of this flood at 23.91 ft. In Barryville the gage recorded the top crest at 26.40 ft. The effects of this flood had far reaching consequences, influencing the development of the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area as well as a huge push toward harnessing the river. The flooding was so costly in lives and property that U.S. Congress finally put through a long-standing proposal to dam the Delaware River, the Tocks Island Dam project. For the next 10 to 15 years the National Park Service worked toward building the dam, but it was never completed due to complaints by various organizations.

June 22, 1972

Hurricane Agnes forged north word through eastern Pennsylvania, leaving behind 10 inches of rainfall. Property damage exceeded $1.5 billion and more than 50 people were died statewide. The Susquehanna Valley was hit the worst.

September 16, 1985

This flood was the result of Hurricane Gloria. A National Park Service kiosk could be seen floating through the Delaware Water Gap.

February 12, 1981

Ice jams caused the worst flood known to date at the Port Jervis stream gage with a record crest of 26.6 feet. Flood gages at Barryville measured 20.90 for the crest there.

January and November, 1996

Severe floods struck the region in both January and November 1996. The flooding caused millions of dollars in damages to homes and businesses in Delaware and Sullivan counties. Both flood events resulted in federal disaster declarations for this area. In January some 60 inches of snow had fallen by New Year’s Eve, and a cold snap froze the river to the depth of several feet. The flood resulted from a few days of warm weather and constant rain that swelled the river and its tributaries with runoff and melted snow. As the water rose, an ice jam held back the river and it poured out over the lowlands. Then the jams gave way. At Kittatinny Point, the river squeezed through at vehicular speed, bearing ice chunks the size of pick-up trucks. Though the Delaware narrows at the Water Gap, the river is still 200 yards wide at Kittatinny Pool. The water reached the 22-step staircase at Kittatinny at more than an inch per minute. With only four steps left above water, the surge subsided. Barryville gages measured the crest of this flood at 22.18 ft.

September 18, 2004

At approximately 6:00 a.m., National Park Service rangers were asked to respond to Callicoon, NY to assist with the evacuation of 23 people from a campground and a housing development (PA side), all lying within the floodway. At this time, the National Weather Service changed its prediction regarding the river’s crest to between 26 and 28 feet at 12:00 a.m. Water levels at the time of the evacuation had already reached 16 to 18 feet (flood stage).

Park service responded with a prop drive boat and two operators. The river reached a high of 24.09 feet on the Barryville gage, 112,201 cubic feet per second at 2:45 p.m. This is the second highest level since records have been kept since 1940, and was topped only by the August 19, 1955 flood that reached a level of 26.4 ft and 130,000 cfs. The level associated with Ivan was 8 times the height, 98 times the cfs and approximately 10 to 12 times the speed of normal summer height of 3 ft.

Watching the gages through the years

The highest levels recorded at the Barryville gage

• 26.40 feet in 1955

• 24.09 feet in 2004

• 23.19 feet in 1942

• 20.90 feet in 1981

• 20.07 feet in 1948

• 22.18 feet in 1996

The highest levels recorded at the Port Jervis gage

• 26.6 feet in 1981

• 25.5 feet in 1904

• 23.91 feet in 1955

• 23.1 feet in 1903

• 19.52 feet in 2004

Photo courtesy of Basket Historical Society
In 1922 floodwaters washed over the town of Long Eddy and undermined the Erie Railroad tracks. (Click for larger version)
Photo courtesy of Minisink Valley Historical Society
In 1875 an ice gorge destroyed the Port Jervis Bridge. (Click for larger version)
Photo courtesy of Wayne Historical Society
On July 28, 1934 ice jams caused the Delaware River to back up. The town of Cochecton was flooded with six to 15 feet of water. (Click for larger version)
Photo courtesy of Basket Historical Society
In 1942, an aerial view of the Lackawaxen River through Honesdale shows the destruction of the 4th and 6th street bridges (depicted with arrows). (Click for larger version)
Photo courtesy of Wayne Historical Society
In May of 1942 flood waters took out the 4th Street Bridge in Honesdale. (Click for larger version)
TRR photo by Charlie Buterbaugh
On September 18, 2004, spectators gathered on the Interstate Bridge at Narrowsburg to watch the high waters charging into the Big Eddy. (Click for larger version)