EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — All this week we look back at tropical storm, Agnes. Eyewitness News hears from those who tried desperately to save the valley but the walls of water were too strong.
“When you heard the sirens through the chills went up and down your spine because you realized you lost the battle against the river,” stated Dave DeComso, former radio-tv reporter.
DeCosmo was a radio reporter and the civil defense spokesman when Agnes descended upon the Wyoming Valley transforming the usually peaceful Susquehanna River into a monster.
“That’s when I did the announcement get out now, all the years in broadcasting I’ll probably be most remembered to get out get out now!” explained DeCosmo.
It was June 23rd, 1972 the rains from Agnes swelled the Susquehanna River.
“The flood was something that was totally unexpected. Hadn’t had one since the 1930s. Most people felt that the levee system had been increased in the 30s and would protect us. So there wasn’t a realization this was going to happen. Except I think in the minds of those at civil defense,” said DeCosmo.
For the full interview with Dave Decomso, former radio-tv reporter, watch the video below.
The Susquehanna River breached the levee in South Wilkes-Barre despite the heroic efforts of thousands of volunteers.
But the reality of what was about to happen set in.
“We knew that the volume of water that was going to reach us and there was no amount of sandbagging at that time that could stop the river,” stated Decosmo.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown lived in South Wilkes-Barre with his family.
“You can hear them say the water’s coming up. All of a sudden we have to leave. It was really it was happening. Sandbagging at the river moving the cars out of the neighborhood,” explained Brown.
Brown says the flood changed his family forever.
“We left that house that day with only the clothes on our back. My entire family and we had nothing,” said Brown.
The Brown family-like tens of thousands of other families–returned to their homes about a week later.
“I remember when we came back seeing all the cars literally up in trees. Fish that were in the backyard of the house. The doors were they were water logged. You couldn’t get into your house. You had to break the doors down,” explained Mayor Brown.
There is one thing he says he will never forget.
“The worst thing was the smell because when the water was receding it was mixed with oil and you can smell that stench and that smell stays in your mind and in your nose,” stated Brown.
For the full interview with Mayor George Brown watch the video below.
The flood destroyed Wilkes-Barre and much of the Wyoming Valley literally changing the landscape.
Andy Tuzinski is the former mayor of Forty Fort. He believes the flood forced the Wyoming Valley to move forward.
“I think the valley was able to come out of a stagnant coal mining community and fortunately there were a lot of things that were wiped from the face of the earth by the flood but it gave a chance for removal,” stated Tuzinski.
For the full interview with Andy Tuzinski, former Mayor of Forty Fort, watch the video below.
The week will culminate with a one-hour special presented by eyewitness news at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, June 20 on WYOU.