And the Rains Came Down

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In June 1972, I was 6 years old, and for three days, beginning June 22, Hurricane Agnes pummeled most of northern and central Pennsylvania with unprecedented rains.

That bit of history I remember clearly. What I was not aware of at the time was that my father – after receiving permission by the National Guard, who was patrolling and safeguarding the city – rode throughout Harrisburg on his bicycle, photo documenting the disaster as it happened. What he didn’t know is that his photos would one day provide a historic snapshot of our hometown.

I’m now honored to share some of my father’s photos here in commemoration of the devastating natural disaster that took place all across central Pa. 40 years ago this month.

Backtracking on Maclay Street, this time headed west toward the river, photographer Ronald Conard noticed a group of people gathering and watching a column of dark smoke rising from an area on Second Street, which was totally under water. It would be several days until floodwaters receded, and he could photograph the aftermath. Take notice of the 1972 gas prices.

Looking north on Second Street between Reily and Maclay. This photo shows the marked difference in the street level, which helps illustrate why some areas of the same block flood faster than others – notice the car on the left. Just a bit farther, on the right, you can just make out the roof of another car. Conard rode his bike as far into the water as possible to get this shot.

At Third and Woodbine Streets, people had moved their cars into the Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church parking lot, which is slightly elevated above Woodbine, thinking their cars would be spared.