New Castle News

TOP STORIES

March 27, 2013

Photo Gallery, Story: 1913 flood required massive cleanup and spurred regional control measures

(Continued)

NEW CASTLE — MOVING FORWARD

The rains that pelted New Castle and caused its rivers to overflow in March 1913 were part of a massive storm system that had spawned at least seven deadly tornadoes in the nation’s heartland. Between the twisters and flooding, more than 700 people lost their lives from the Great Plains to the Northeast.

The lessons the storm taught, though, did not go unheeded.

Trudy E. Bell, a science journalist specializing in physical sciences and engineering and a former editor of Scientific American magazine, wrote in a 2007 research synopsis that the tragedy “helped trigger revolutions in emergency radio, disaster relief, national policy on flood control … as well as inspiring the mechanism of federated philanthropy (which eventually led to the foundation of the United Way).”

Reactions were much the same in western Pennsylvania, where officials moved quickly in an attempt to pre-empt future disasters. The General Assembly authorized the state Water Supply Commission to construct a dam on the Shenango River that would turn the Pymatuning Swamp into a lake. It also approved $400,000 for the purchase of the land that would be needed for the project, but when Gov. John Tener signed the bill on July 25, 1913, he slashed the budget to $100,000, citing “insufficient state revenue.”

According to stateparks.com, it would take another 18 years for public and private organizations to raise the $3.7 million needed to build the dam. The effort went over the top on May 7, 1931, when Gov. Gifford Pinchot approved $1.5 million for the project. Work started on Oct. 6, 1931, and the dam was dedicated Aug. 17, 1934, over 23 years after the runaway Shenango had devastated New Castle.

In 1965, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed a second dam on the Shenango, creating the Shenango Reservoir near Sharpsville.

“There has still been some flooding,” Presnar said of the post-dam era, “but it’s never reached the point of the 1913 flood.”

Perhaps the closest rival to the 100-year-old disaster was the downtown flood of January 1959. News reports of the day said that the water was “highest in the city since 1913,” but the Shenango crested four feet lower than it had 46 years earlier. Although schools and industries once again closed, the piling of 900 sandbags at the pumping plant kept water flowing to the city for the duration. By flood’s end, damage was estimated at $1 million ($8 million in 2013 dollars), compared to $3 million ($69.8 million converted) in 1913.

For anyone under age 60, it may be difficult to imagine New Castle’s two rivers – relatively docile entities apart from spring thaw and rains – ever rising far enough to envelop the downtown.

“People, if they haven’t experienced something in their own life time, they don’t think that it ever happened before,” Presnar noted. “We look at those rivers today, and we don’t think of them as high enough to cause that problem.

“But these disasters have hit us, and hit us hard.”

(Email: d_irwin@ncnewsonline.com)

 

Text Only | Photo Reprints
TOP STORIES
  • Shooting.jpg Detroit area man dies in Ellwood City gunfire

    A triple shooting in an Ellwood City street has claimed the life of a Detroit area man. Gunfire erupted in the middle of Loop Street outside the Walnut Ridge housing project around 10:20 p.m. Sunday, according to state police.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Baptism1.jpg Dipped downtown

    John the Baptist identified himself as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’ ” On Saturday, local evangelist Randy Crum once again took a cue from the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, eschewing the locusts and honey that John was known to munch on but heading out into the wilds to baptize believers and challenge them to share their faith with their community.

    July 21, 2014 3 Photos

  • lamancusa.jpg Tanner, district attorney: No comment

    The Lawrence County District Attorney is keeping mum about a probe into finances in Shenango Township. “We don’t talk about ongoing investigations,” Lamancusa said Friday.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo 5 Stories

  • Shenango1.jpg Shenango Township: Supervisors fire Tanner, release DeLorenzo

    The Shenango supervisors fired township secretary/treasurer Brian Tanner and terminated auditor and consultant Deno DeLorenzo last night.

    July 18, 2014 3 Photos 4 Stories

  • gavel.jpg Shenango to take action on Tanner, DeLorenzo

    Shenango’s supervisors will act Thursday night on the employment contracts of two men being investigated for possible theft of township funds.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo 4 Stories

  • money.jpg Shenango computers, financial papers seized

    Investigators have seized computers and a host of financial paperwork from the Shenango Township Municipal Building.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo 3 Stories

  • money.jpg Second warrant issued in Shenango Township finances probe

    The home office of Shenango Township’s secretary/treasurer is the subject of a search warrant. A warrant was approved allowing investigators from the Lawrence County district attorney’s office to search Brian Tanner’s home office at 658 Melody Lane Extension in Shenango and seize all computers and computer records.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • Our Opinion: Who’s watching the money in Shenango Township?

    The Shenango Township supervisors have some explaining to do. And that’s putting it mildly.

    July 15, 2014 1 Story

  • Shenango places Tanner on leave, schedules meeting

    The Shenango Township supervisors have placed their secretary/treasurer on leave. In a statement faxed late Monday afternoon to the New Castle News, the supervisors said Brian Tanner had been placed on “administrative leave” as the result of a search warrant served on the township municipal building Friday.

    July 15, 2014

  • DROWN.jpg Local teen drowns in Slippery Rock Creek

    Divers from several fire departments responded yesterday to a drowning in the Kennedy Mill area of Slippery Rock Creek. Reports from the scene indicated that two teenage males from the Ellwood-Wampum area had gone swimming in the creek, and that one had gone under and not resurfaced.

    July 14, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Poll

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 fell from the sky in Donetsk, Ukraine, on Thursday, killing all 298 people aboard. Many are speculating that Russian rebels (supported by Vladimir Putin) are responsible for downing the aircraft. What do you think?

Yes. All evidence points that way.
No. Everyone is so quick to point fingers, but there's not enough evidence to support claims of Russian guilt.
I'm not sure. I'll just wait until the investigation is over to make up my mind.
What is up with these Malaysian Airlines planes? I know one airline I won't be flying any time soon...
     View Results