1936 floods

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Fri May 29 16:24:45 EDT 2009

>From the PRR book "History of the Floods of March 1936 and January 1937"

"Unexpectedly, with very little warning, the flood which followed the
rainfall of March 17th, 18th and 19th, 1936, overwhelmed the cities and
towns and country-side in the river valleys of Pennsylvania and parts of
adjoining states. In many of them, the water was higher, swifter, more
destructive, than had ever been experienced in all their history."

In short, three storms hit the northeast with one rolling up the Ohio River
valley and two coming up from the Caribbean along the eastern coast line.
The rainfall concentrated over western Pennsylvania and the lower western
New York State. Rainfall along a line from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg totaled
about 5 inches and this heavy rainfall extended down into West Virginia
along a line from Elkins to Winchester VA. Flash floods were common and
everything drained into the Susquehanna River Basin, the Potomac or westward
into the Monongahela Conemaugh and Yoghioheny Rivers flooding Pittsburgh.

For the N&W territory, the PRR book notes that the Potomac crested at the
junction of the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers at 18.5 feet OVER FLOOD
STAGE on the 19th of March. Which is a lot of water.

Any time winter storms/low pressure areas dip down low into the US or
originate in the Caribbean, they drag up huge amounts of moisture form the
ocean and dump it along the west side of the Alleghenies as the storms blow
north-eastwardly across the eastern US. This has happened in 1883, 1884,
1907, 1913, 1933, 1936 and 1937 and others. The 1937 flood was the largest
and drowned the Ohio River basin with the highest crest ever recorded. The
1913 flood was perhaps the most destructive, dropping 10-12 inches of rain
on Ohio and causing such flash flooding to virtually wipe out all of the
railroad tracks in the state.

Gary Rolih


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Sent: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 2:41 PM
To: nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Subject: Re: 1936 floods

-----Original Message-----
From: NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org>
To: NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org>
Sent: Tue, 26 May 2009 10:15 pm
Subject: Re: 1936 floods

The flood of March 1936 was indeed caused by a severe winter followed by
unusual warm temperatures and heavy rain in March. Ice floes as much as a
foot thick and the high water caused severe damage along the Potomac. Water
was 42 feet above normal at Shepherdstown, where the highway bridge was
destroyed. B&O was badly damaged, but their Harpers Ferry bridges survived.
N&W was on high ground north of Front Royal, but it looks like it suffered
where the tracks ran close to the Shenandoah south of there. Until a
temporary ferry was placed in operation at Shepherdstown, N&W was the only
way other than boat to cross there. The nearest highway bridge to survive
was upstream at Williamsport, MD. That stretched the 4 mile trip to
Sharpsburg, MD to 36 miles.

--Rick Morrison
Shenandoah Div. track charts show some high water marks. On 3/18/38 the
water was over the main
line at MP H-185 (Buena Vista) cresting at 828.93 ft. above sea level.
Entries for the 1942 flood
start just north of Lyndhurst( 10/15/42) and continues north to Carson
(where I-66 crosses the river
and the railroad) (10/18/42). Harry Bundy


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