The 1955 Flood
Our region entered August 1955 bone dry, July 1955 was the single driest month in 55 years. The soggy remnants of Hurricane Diane promised relief for Northeastern Pennsylvania. She arrived early on Aug. 18, promise became pandemonium in a matter of hours.
Hurricane Diane nearly wiped away two Scranton neighborhoods and took the lives of two Scranton residents. The Flats section of South Scranton and the Petersburg section near Richter Avenue were hardest hit. Flooding had destroyed 32 homes in the Flats and 18 homes in Little England and killed two people, 60-year-old Ella Highfield of Ash Street and Charles J. Schane, 38, of Richter Avenue. Mrs. Highfield was last seen by her husband clinging to the roof of their home as Roaring Brook pulsed by. Officials discovered Mr. Schane’s battered home about 100 feet downstream of its foundation.
In South Scranton, the stream carved up homes on Mattes Avenues, exposing the drenched and mud-coated innards. The force of rushing water destroyed the Cedar Avenue and Ash and Elm street bridges. By 1:10 a.m. on Aug. 19, Army reservists were piloting two amphibious craft along South Washington Avenue and River Street through about seven feet of water. A helicopter from Olmstead Air Force Base rescued 29 stranded homeowners in Scranton and East Scranton. Pilots scooped up Mr. Hungerbuhler and his family from their Birch Street home around 9 a.m. An hour later, Mayor James T. Hanlon declared a state of emergency, effectively shutting down the city.
The Cedar Avenue bridge in Scranton collapsed shortly before noon, hours after officials dynamited the mortally wounded South Washington Avenue bridge. In all, more than 100 bridges in the region were damaged or destroyed, including 34 in Pike County and 10 in Lackawanna County.
More than 100 people died throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania including 78 in Monroe County. Funeral parlors in Stroudsburg soon became mass morgues. Refrigerator trucks also stored bodies.
There were 302 homes destroyed in Pennsylvania. Lackawanna County had 40 of those homes.
The storm ultimately reshaped the landscape of Scranton. It also spurred the construction of dozens of flood-control projects throughout the region.
Click here to view a Google map showing most of the areas affected by the flood.
Click on a picture below to see a larger version
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Copyright © 2005 Miller Bean Funeral Home, Inc.
Last modified: Friday, March 24, 2006