Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The 1972 Flood - Photos & Stories From Lewisburg Pa

An Aerial view of Lewisburg & Montandon

In Lewisburg, the river flooded later, but it was the creeks were the serious flooding began.
"The flood of 1972 was unlike any before in Lewisburg. Buffalo Creek (north of town), Bull Run (through the middle of town) and the Susquehanna River, all exceeded flood stage." 

Of the 7 people died, locally, in the 1972 flood, 4 of those deaths were in Lewisburg.

Busser Supply, Western Auto, and the A&P were all torn down after the flood. 

If you look to the left in the photo above, you can see the orange fencing that had surrounded the site of the former Bull Run Inn & Bowling Alley. (Also known as Campus Lanes). The Bull Run Inn caught on fire of January of 1972, and the debris had just been cleaned up shortly before this flood. After the flood, Russ Gardner was able to purchase the lots where Western Auto and the A&P stood, and he rebuilt the new Bull Run Inn at that location.

The A&P on the left, and Donehoes Furniture on the right
The Bull Run Inn that burnt down in January was to the left, across from Donhoes

Looking from the west, with the A&P on the right

"The water looked like the Niagara River just before it goes over the falls. I wouldn’t have put my big toe in it. "- Betty Lou McClure, describing Bull Run.

On Thursday a woman had locked herself in her home on 6th street and refused to leave. She told them "I made it through the flood of 36 and I'll make it through this one"

On Friday afternoon, fireman rescued that woman, and her son, from the roof of their home.

The morning of the flood a local radio station was playing Simon and Garfunkle -'Bridge over Troubled Waters' - I never did hear if it was on purpose or not! 

South Front Street

South Water Street

St Anthony Street

High Level Water Marks on a building along Bull Run, before the 72 flood

Along Bull Run, after the water receded

There as little warning about the flooding at Bull Run.

"We didn't have any warning from the police or fire department" said Rick Libby. "We went out on a neighbors boat, and that was before they started rescuing people by police boat"

Libbys home on 6th street was under three feet of water in his living room by early Thursday morning. Sixth street runs parallel to Bull Run Creek, and it took the brunt of Thursdays flooding, turning the street into a wildly flowing river.

One of the buildings along Bull Run being demolished after the flood.

Melvin Swartzlander & Craig Jarret, on their way to rescue Joseph Murphy, who was clinging to a tree, with his small dog, after the rescue boat he was in with Hufnagle capsized.

Market Street at 5th Street

After the initian flooding, the borough then began to prepare for the River to flood.

Residents on Mill, Water, Front & Brown Streets began moving furniture to second floors.

North 5th Street

In Lewisburg, "Tiny Bull Run Becomes A Monster"
Heavy flooding in union county rendered most of the roads impassible.
Residents along Bull run were evacuated early Thursday morning, by boat.
Several refused to leave their homes.
Sixth street became a torrent as the stream overflowed its banks.

Travel from Lewisburg to Sunbury was possible, although there was water over the road in Winfield

At the intersection of 15 & 45 (Market Street)

"Water also was across 15 at north seventh street, traffic was being detoured through town."

Aerial View of the water across 15

"Get out if you don't want to float out!"

That's what the hotel clerk told 58 year old John Yosko, a former taxi driver & veteran tractor trailer driver from Long Island, in his unexpected 4:30 am wake up call. was in town to visit his nephew, who was serving five years in the federal penitentiary. Yosko went to the Colonial Crest Motel, where he stayed for several days regaling the other stranded travelers with stories. One of his jokes involved the hot water at the Crest burning off his fingerprints.. which were indeed missing. Read more about Yosko's visit to Lewisbug in Odd & Incredible Stories From The 72 Flood" in our area.

"Citizens here remain calm as the island that is downtown Lewisburg decreases in size from the flood waters from the Susquehanna River, Buffalo Creek and Bull Run.

A strip of land from 5th to 2nd streets, extending one to two blocks to the south was the only place available to police and fire crews, as the entire downtown area was flooded.

The boroughs fire house became inoperative early Friday evening. The fire trucks were removed until the station dried out.
The Signma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house, on St George St

The 16th st area near Moore Business forms was covered with gas and oil and was being evacuated. The fire department, as well as locals with boats, were helping to remove people living in that area.

The crest at Lewisburg was reached early Friday morning.

The National Guard had arrived on Thursday, with their all terrain troop carrier, to help with rescue operations in Lewisburg.

Huge oil tanks, broken loose from the Oil Co. floated through McClure’s meadow, as well as bales of peat moss from Agway. 

Along River Road
Along River Road

A group of boy scouts from Wisconsin, who were touring the east coast, and camping near Lewisburg, were rescued by the National Guard after being stranded for two days.
Betty Lou McClure recalls that the mud was thick and slimy and oily – many oil tanks had tipped over in basements, and Lewisburg had no water for 2 days so people began to wash out mud using cellar water or river water.

Mennonites and Amish flocked to Lewisburg to help with clean up efforts.  A group of Mennonites stayed for more than a week to "help get Lewisburg back into a livable condition"

Of the Seven Flood Related Deaths In Our Area, 
Four Were In Lewisburg
It was on this day that Gordon Hufnagle drowned on Bull Run in Lewisburg. Hufnagle was the safety director for Lewisburg, and he was in the process of rescuing Mr & Mrs Joseph Murphy of S. Sixth street, when their boat capsized near St Catherine St. Police Chief Donald Heiter saw Mrs Murphy in the water, and and Hufnagle hanging on to the boat, when a current caught the boat and whipped it into the railroad underpass. Mr Murphy was found hanging to a tree limb in the area of south 6th street. He was taken to the hospital, where he was treated and released, but later died at the home of his son. (That's how Hufnagle Park got it's name)

In addition, Mrs William E. Minium of St Anthony st was trapped in her basement when the cellar walls collapsed. She was still missing at press time. A diver was attempting to reach her. 

See more about the creation of Hufnagle park here:

Read More

Across the River Bridge, Mays was completely under water


  1. Thank you soooooo much for posting this.

  2. I enjoyed this very much, of course not the disaster, but the history of it. Thank you.

  3. The building identified as the Sigma Alpha Epsilon House on St. George street is incorrectly named. It actually is what was the Kappa Sigma Fraternity house on University Avenue. The building remains; it is no longer Kappa Sigma.

    -from Carol Noel Hawley, BU '73, M'83
    email: hawley@bucknell.edu

  4. I was a Senior at LHS and a member of the Union County Emergency Squad. We were stationed at the Train trestle by the Tennis Courts at Bucknell and watched the water Go up to the bottom of the trestle and back down to the road surface in 24 hours. I was also allowed yo help evacuate a family from their second floor of their home!


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