Flood of 1936

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A limited view of the flood waters on First Street during the 1936 Flood. It appears that the photo was taken from the area of the PRR Station or the Hotel Royal. (Photo submitted by Wayne Taylor)
Contributed by rkohler3 on 3/3/13 - Image Year: 1936

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These columns, from the Spring 1977 editions of The Times - A series of installments, taken from the March 24 and March 31, 1936 issues of The Port Royal Times. Many local historical landmarks were swept away.

The Juniata Valley was visited by the worst flood in its history last Wednesday, the flood waters continuing to rise until about 2 a.m. Thursday when the water began to recede, but not until millions of dollars worth or damage had been done from the source of the Juniata River far beyond where it enters into the Susquehanna near Duncannon.

The famous "Blue Juniata" began to rise Tuesday following an almost continual downpour of rain which began Monday night and continued almost constantly until Wednesday. The rain of Tuesday night was exceptionally heavy and by daylight Wednesday morning, the people along the river front began to get alarmed at the rapid rise.

At Port Royal by 10 a.m. on Wednesday, it was impossible to cross the river on the bridge, both approaches to the bridge being covered by the rapidly rising water, and the cellars of the homes on Water Street were rapidly filling with water.

By noon the water was up to the floor of the wooden bridge spanning the stream at this place and the floating debris was striking the bridge with terrific force. The bridge stood the pressure until about 4:05 Wednesday evening, when the east span suddenly left loose and floated down the stream. Two other spans of the bridge were swept away one at a time, leaving only the span at the Port Royal side standing.

By this time the stream had risen to such a height that many of the first floors of the houses on Water Street were inundated.

The water continued a very rapid rise until Thursday at which time every house on Water Street, excepting the ones occupied by Mr. Mahlin [Benner], Gus Wert, Newton Lukens, Louise Sieber and Harvey Blystone.

The home of G. L. Wert suffered the most in this section of the town, the water reaching a depth of about eight feet on the first floor and his garage and a one ton Chevrolet truck were swept away by the current

The homes of James Kennedy, Lewis Hostler, Fred Wagner, George Roe, Ross Ranck, Ira Kilmer, Silas Hockenberry, William Wagner, George Wagner, Roy Tittle, Banks Kennedy, J. H. Clark, Ellen Pomeroy and Mrs. D. C. Pomeroy were all inundated to such an extent as to have water on the first floor, varying from a few inches to from five to six feet.

The farm house of Mrs. Matilda Book at the Walker Township end of the river bridge the water reached such a height that it touched the ceiling of the first floor of the house. A terrific current was thrown against the buildings of Mrs. Book and a large tree that had been washed out of root was washed into the yard together with a telephone pole and much other debris. Nine of the outbuildings were swept away by the strong current together with about 265 chickens.

In attempting to get into the house after the rest of the family had moved out, Mrs. Book's son Charles and Niles Clark narrowly escaped drowning when their boat struck some object and capsized, throwing them into the raging stream. Charles succeeded in getting hold of a grape harbor while Niles got hold of an apple tree and they were rescued from the perilous positions that they occupied only after another boat was secured at Mexico and came to their aid. Mrs. Book's loss is almost impossible to estimate.

The Irwin Clark farm, a little farther up the river than the Book farm, met almost a similar fate, and one or more of his buildings were swept away together with his straw stack. The water reached a depth of about six feet on the first floor of his home and was up almost to the floor of his barn. His loss also was almost beyond estimation. Much of his house furnishings were badly damaged by mud and water.

Over five hundred bushels of corn were washed away for Mr. Clark, in addition to the heavy toss to his buildings.

All the cattle and horses on these two farms were saved.

Mrs. Book and her family found refuge at the home of C. C. Book and Mr. Clark and his family at the home of Ira Robinson until the water subsided.

The extreme high water in the Juniata river backed the waters of the Tuscarora and Licking Creeks to such an extent that Old Port and vicinity was flooded much greater than at the time of the June flood of 1889.

Only the homes of Noah Hertzler, Mrs. Bertha Groninger, S. B. Kilmer, William Ard and Shelley Souders escaped in Old Port without having water on the first floors.

The homes of D. E. Bergstresser, Hon. William Hertzler and C. W. Koons had water from a foot to four or five feet on the first floor, while those of Mrs. Alice Groninger and Mr. Moyer, the water was up in the second floor, as it was also at the home of Mrs. Foster McClure.

In the store room in this village (Old Port), the water reached a depth so great that it touched the ceiling on the first floor and did much damage to the Telfer Bros. mill, the water rushed up on the second floor and much feed, grain, fertilizer, etc. was badly ruined. They were among the heaviest losses in this disastrous flood. The records show that the water was from 10 inches to two feet higher this time than in that of the June flood of 1889. At the McClure farm, the water reached well up into the barn and did much damage both at the house and barn.

The Port Royal side of the creeks, the water lifted the blacksmith shop belonging to I. D. Kepner but only removed it a short distance from the foundation. A Chevrolet coupe was in the garage and was completely covered by the water. The water reached a depth of about six feet in Mr. Kepner's residence and did much damage.

The garage of Milliken & Rice was also filled with several feet of water, and the home of C. L. Meloy was also a victim of the high water, which attained a height of about seven feet in the first floor. Miss Helen Meloy had come home in her Pontiac coupe Tuesday evening and never dreaming of a flood, left her car stand in front of the house and when she arose in the morning, her car was almost completely covered by the water. By the time the water began to recede early Thursday morning, it was under eight to ten feet of water.

The home of C. D. Foltz was in the water almost to the second floor, as was those of Mrs. David Grotninger, Henry Scyoc, John Swab and Gordon Bashore. The covered bridge spanning Licking creek near these homes was lifted off the piers and for a time laid on its side. The water also reached the home of Mr. S. M. Walters near the west end of the bridge.

At Old Port, Mrs. Alice Groninger and daughter Maude stuck to their home until the water reached the second floor when they were taken out over the porch roof in a boat to a place of safety. Several of their outbuildings were lifted off their foundations by the water as was also the large chicken house belonging to Noah Hertzler.

Photos & Additional Comments

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Contributed by ray on 12/26/13 - Image Year: 1936
POMEROY HOUSES during the Flood of 1936. These houses are located at the north end of First "Water" Street.
Contributed by rkohler3 on 8/18/19 - Image Year: 1936
BOOK FARM AFTER THE FLOOD OF 1936 - This farm sits at the foot of Tyson's Hill along the east side of Route 75 near the eastern entrance to the Juniata River Bridge. The farm was badly damaged by the flood waters. The car in the photo is parked on the side of Route 75. (Photo courtesy of Wayne E. Taylor)
Contributed by rkohler3 on 8/18/19 - Image Year: 1936
BOOK FARM AND REMNANTS OF THE COVERED BRIDGE after the March 1936 Flood. (Photo courtesy of Wayne E. Taylor)
Contributed by rkohler3 on 12/14/19 - Image Year: 1936
LICKING CREEK - Looking toward the Rhoda Mayer Farm with the farm's covered bridge mostly submerged by flood water. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Taylor)

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