Elmer Ferlow has watched a man drown. And he couldn't do a thing about it.
It happened 37 years ago this month, on Richland Avenue in York.
Ferlow, a truck driver for Miller Motor Freight at the time, had just returned from New Jersey and gone into the company's terminal to chat with fellow workers before heading home to Hanover.
It had been raining pretty hard for a while. Water in the terminal parking lot was a few inches deep. The guys talked and watched the rain through the window.
Then, suddenly, Ferlow saw a man trying to cross the Richland Avenue bridge by walking across the top rail.
"I thought, 'Man, that guy ain't going to make it. What's he thinking?'"
A split second later, Ferlow saw him lose his footing. He watched the man fall into the rushing water and be swept away.
"His hands went up in the air and he was gone -- just like that," he recalled. "There was no way anyone could have saved him."
To this day, Ferlow can't drive down Richland Avenue without thinking about that day.
"It was scary," he said. "It really was."
More memories of Agnes in York County
During the hurricane, I was a recently married woman, age 22. I lived on Cottage Hill Road (in York).... The rain water went the whole way up Philadelphia Street.... I knew many of the families there, and I can remember taking food to a family who lived on the right-hand side of the street.... I can remember packing a meal from my home and taking it in there. I had to wade in deep water to get there. I can remember rats coming by me as I was trying to get to their front door.
I will just never forget the animals that were trying to survive during that time.
Our home was damaged -- the roof.
The drama people had to go through and the damage to their homes was unbelievable.
-- Angela Kane Sheffer, West Manchester Township
About a month before the hurricane came through, I bought a diner in York New Salem. After we opened it, a week later, Agnes came through and flooded us out. So we had to clean it up and reopen it....That's what I remember about Agnes. It cleaned me out right after I opened the diner.
-- Herm Myers, West Manchester Township
At the time, we were living in the Maple Hill area of Newberrytown. We were having company that night.... I was downstairs on the drawing board, working on plans for the house which I'm occupying now. My wife called me to come up because we were having strawberries and ice cream before the company went home. We ate the strawberries and ice cream, and the rain continued to fall. Our driveway at that time was about 75 feet long, and when (the company) left, I couldn't see their car at the bottom of the driveway when they departed.
I went back down into my study and walked over into the garage from there. The hydraulic pressure from the groundwater broke the garage floor, and I had little jets coming up throughout the garage floor. That was the start of our inundation.
My son was home with a broken leg in a walking cast from a motorcycle accident. That whole night and the next day we swept water out of the garage doors and out the front door of the lower level of the house. It ruined all the rugs in the bottom floor.
It was a trying time, believe me, but we survived.
-- Anthony Schneider, Hellam Township
I was at my mobile home in York Township with two children of 4 and 5 years old. My husband was working on Hokes Mill Road, and he was stranded from us for 36 hours without blood pressure medication.... They had to be rescued by tubes and ropes and an expert swimmer.
-- Constance Godfrey, Windsor
When we lived in Glen Rock, on Baltimore Street, we had 6 feet of water in the basement. What I remember is my mom having to go down the stairs into the basement, to get our dog out of the high water.... We had to take the dog and the hamsters I had up in the attic.
-- Debra Davidson, York Township
In 1972, when Agnes hit, I was 12 years old, living in the little town of Delta. Many of the basements flooded into the upper levels of the homes because of the rock quarries that were behind the town that the Welsh had dug in the 1850s. The excess rain brought the water table right on up through the houses.
We had to borrow a water pump from our local fire company. My father and I took turns, 24 hours a day, sitting outside in this hurricane -- winds blowing, rain pouring, dressed in everything we could find to keep dry and warm. We had to keep this pump running. There was a hose going into our basement and a hose going out to the street. We were pumping the water out of our house, hoping to lower the level. But the danger was we couldn't allow that pump to run out of gasoline, so we had to sit there 24 hours a day to make sure that thing was running. I would go into the house and sleep for a couple of hours and rest and get something to eat while dad watched the pump, and then we would switch. It was a real mess.
-- David McFadden, York
I was an 11-year-old Cub Scout in Cub Pack No. 1 on Queen and Market streets in York. I remember going to Press Supply, which was downtown, right next to the Codorus Creek, and cleaning out the basement of all the flooded jars and equipment and supplies that they sold.
-- Diego Rivera, York
That June, I was working at Central Market for my uncle, Ken Potter, at Martin's Potato Chip stand. The morning that Agnes had come through, my uncle Ken called and told me that I didn't have to go downtown to the market because it was flooded. We laughed because we lived in Elmwood, a half a block off East Princess Street, and there was no flooding there. Yes, we had rain, but there was no water laying around. So the neighbors, my parents and I got in the car and we drove downtown a little bit. I remember seeing the Codorus flooded and there was a man in his boat riding up and down Market Street.
So, it was kind of exciting. We always remember, Agnes came through in '72.
-- Deb Holtzinger, Springettsbury Township
Grace Brethren Church in York had Bible school that week. I left out early that night because it was raining so hard. When I left the church with nine children in my car -- I was at the corner of Sunset Lane and Dairy Road in Shiloh -- my car stalled. The water was almost up to the bottom of the doors. The children were very scared and crying. I did a lot of praying, and my car finally started. What a night I will never forget.
-- Dolly Sutton, Dover Township
During Agnes, there was a teachers' workshop in Shippensburg. I was one of a big group of school nurses who attended from all over the state. There were two of us from York... when we couldn't get back, we volunteered to help the people who were in trouble. A lot of those people lived in trailer courts along the water, and they got caught in the flood.
I happened to have a deck of cards with me to play Solitaire, and I entertained the children in the dormitory. They had sandwiches and refreshments for the children and their parents. I spent the night, helping them out with the children. We could not get back to York for at least two days because of the floods.
-- Gloria Barnhart, York Township
We got married June 18, 1972. We were in the Corning plant in New York an hour before it flooded and a bunch of people were killed. We were traveling, trying to get back.... We drove through farmers' fields because the main roads were out. We'd be driving down the road, and we'd have to stop because there were big sinkholes and turnarounds. I told my husband, 'If you can put up with me this week, you'll be able to stand me for the rest of your life.'"
--Jean Bowers, West Manchester Township
I was 19 years old when Agnes hit. I was working a summer job at Hersheypark. The old turnpike ride had gasoline-powered cars, and we had to move those up on a hill the night before the hurricane hit. That ended up not being high enough ground. Hersheypark was completely flooded. The water from Spring Creek came up to the cable car line, which was 40-some feet of water.
My memories of that were basically being isolated for a few days with my parents at their house up near the Annville area. So many bridges were out and creeks were flooded that we were basically isolated for three or four days. It was really a big adventure, I guess, at the age of 19. We played card games and passed the time doing that kind of thing.
My sister was married at the time with a small child near the Hershey area, living in the mobile home. It got flooded out. I think it was under 10 feet of water.
-- Jerry Taulbee, Dallastown
At the time of Hurricane Agnes, I was married to a farmer and we lived on a livestock farm in the Finger Lakes area of New York State. The hurricane had so much rain that we lost all our crops. The southern tier of the state got hardest hit. Corning Glass Works was under 10 feet of water, and priceless pieces of glassware were destroyed.
My children, along with other high-school kids, would meet at the high school every Saturday morning -- very early in the morning -- and buses would pick them up and transport them to Corning to work in the flood effort.
My daughter said before they could go into flooded basements to work, the National Guard would have to come in and shoot the rattlesnakes.
Children worked at this flood effort for weeks and weeks after the flood. The local paper said they could not have recovered from this horrendous flood had it not been for the teenage volunteers in the area.
-- Jessica Buck, Shrewsbury
MORE MEMORIES:Becky Thoman:
Mabel Josephine Caudill:
In June 1972, Hurricane Agnes began as a tropical depression over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. June 18, it was upgraded to a hurricane and made landfall in Florida.
It never strengthened beyond a Category 1 storm, but from June 20 to 23, the tropical storm lingered near the Pennsylvania and New York border, flooding the region with more than 15 inches of rain and destroying many towns in the Susquehanna River basin.
ABOUT THE SERIES
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