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Technical Papers

Basement Waterproofing - The Pittsburgh St. Patricks Day Flood of 1936

Tuesday, January 31st, 2023 by Aaron Stull

The Pittsburgh St. Patricks Day Flood of 1936 - Image 1The 1936 St. Patrick's Day Flood in Pittsburgh, PA was one of the worst natural disasters to hit the city in its history. On March 17, 1936, heavy rain and melting snow from the previous winter caused the three rivers that run through the city – the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio – to overflow their banks. The resulting flood caused widespread damage and displacement, and claimed the lives of at least 84 people.

The floodwaters rose quickly and caught many residents off guard. According to the Pittsburgh Press, "Houses crumbled like match sticks, streets became raging torrents, automobiles were tossed about like toys, and bridges were washed away as the deluge swept down upon the city." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that "Buildings tumbled like ten-pins as the rampaging waters rushed through the streets and alleys of Pittsburgh, leaving death and destruction in their wake."

The damage from the 1936 St. Patrick's Day Flood was estimated to be around $100 million, equivalent to over $1.7 billion today. Thousands of homes were destroyed or severely damaged, and many residents were left homeless. The flood also disrupted transportation and communication systems, making it difficult for rescuers to reach affected areas and for residents to receive assistance.

Despite the widespread devastation, there were also many acts of heroism and kindness. Volunteer rescuers used boats and makeshift rafts to evacuate residents from their homes, and volunteers set up temporary shelters for those who were displaced. According to one survivor, "Everyone was so kind and helpful, even strangers. They gave us food and a place to sleep, and did everything they could to make us comfortable."

The 1936 St. Patrick's Day Flood had a lasting impact on the city of Pittsburgh. In response to the disaster, the city strengthened its flood control measures, including the construction of several dams and levees along the rivers. The flood also brought the city together and demonstrated the resilience of its residents. As another survivor stated, "Although the flood was a terrible thing, it brought out the best in people. We may have lost our homes, but we gained a sense of community and came out stronger for it."

Sources:

  1. "The 1936 St. Patrick's Day Flood in Pittsburgh." Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. https://www.carnegielibrary.org/research/pittsburgh-history/pittsburgh-stories/1936-st-patricks-day-flood-pittsburgh
  2. "Pittsburgh's St. Patrick's Day Flood." Pennsylvania State University. https://sites.psu.edu/pennsylvaniafloods/pittsburghs-st-patricks-day-flood/
  3. "The St. Patrick's Day Flood of 1936 in Pittsburgh." Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. https://www.phlf.org/pittsburgh-stories/the-st-patricks-day-flood-of-1936-in-pittsburgh/
  4. "The St. Patrick's Day Flood of 1936." Pittsburgh Press. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1144&dat=19360318&id=q3UcAAAAIBAJ&sjid=w04EAAAAIBAJ&pg=7042,49
About the author
Aaron Stull is a second generation foundation repair specialist from the greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.

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