Hurricane Agnes – Berks County’s Worst Natural Disaster

Hurricane Agnes caused extreme damage and loss to Berks County when it hit June, 22nd 1972. In Reading, the Schuylkill River reached a record flood of 31.5 feet. Hundreds of people were evacuated and over a hundred homes destroyed.

Floods reached as far inland as 3rd street in the heart of the city. When Agnes hit, they were still in the process of constructing the Blue Marsh Dam, which was built to try to prevent flooding of this magnitude. Hurricane Agnes still goes down today as the State of Pennsylvania’s worst natural disaster.

Hurricane Agnes - Reading PA - 1972
Hurricane Agnes - Reading PA - 1972

The view in various directions from the Penn Street bridge this morning showed evidences of the ravages of the Schuykill River no matter where one looked.

Hurricane Agnes - Reading PA - 1972

The Schuykill River has returned to within its banks – but the littered evidence of its overflowing remains, especially in the background of this picture, taken this morning from the Penn Street Bridge looking southward.

Hurricane Agnes - Reading PA - 1972

WATER SURROUNDS PLANT – The Birdsboro Armorcast plant sits like a giant man-made island in a lake formed by water from the flood-swollen Schuykill River backing up onto the plant grounds. The huge facility, which turned out armor steel during World War II, recently was purchased by Greater Berks Development Fund for industrial development.

Hurricane Agnes - Reading PA - 1972

BASHED AND BATTERED – A bashed and battered section of the Cross Keys Bridge lies on its side on the embankment of the Schuykill River after raging flood waters tore the bridge from its piers Friday. The remainder of the bridge washed downstream until it became hung up mid-stream.

Hurricane Agnes - Reading PA - 1972

HOME GONE – This is the site of one home which was swept away by the swift current of the Manatawny Creek which ravaged the area during Friday’s flood.

Hurricane Agnes - Reading PA - 1972

BRIDGE IN WAY – The raging Tulpehocken Creek wasn’t satisfied with just running under Gring’s Mill Bridge, before this picture was taken it ran over the bridge itself.

Hurricane Agnes - Reading PA - 1972
Hurricane Agnes Reading Berks

Huge concrete railing block on the Gring’s Mill Bridge, at the county’s Gring’s Mill Recreation Area, in northern Spring Township, we moved by the force of the flooded Tulphocken Creek on Friday.

Hurricane Agnes - Reading PA - 1972
Hurricane Agnes Reading Berks

The devastating ruins struct at the Reading High School construction project and provided a swimming pool before its time. The project which is estimated to cost nearly $8 million is to include a field house containing a pool when completed. Today it appears to be an open-air swimming hole.

Blue Marsh - Pleasant Valley
Agnes Flooding stalls process

The sign Water Road in this picture wasn’t kidding. This is the intersection of State Hill and Water roads at the Blue Marsh Bridge, northwest of State Hill, and under the Tulpehocken Creek on Friday.

Below are 20 never before publicly seen photos taken by my grandfather after the storm hit. Enjoy!

  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972
  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972 - Leesport - Schuykill River
  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972 - Leesport
  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972 - Leesport
  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972 - Leesport - Schuykill River
  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972 - Leesport - Schuykill River
  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972 - Leesport - Schuykill River
  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972
  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972 - Schuykill River
  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972
  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972 - Leesport - Schuykill River
  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972 - Schuykill River
  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972 - Schuykill River
  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972
  • Hurricane Agnus - Reading PA 1972 - Schuykill River

Pictures from Great Floods of Reading and Berks County – Ben Bernhart & the Reading Eagle.

Born and raised in Berks, I am fascinated by the style, design & culture of the mid-late 20th century. I started this website to research and build a collection of the places, things and stories I have heard about my entire life. Read more here.

7 Replies to “Hurricane Agnes – Berks County’s Worst Natural Disaster”

  1. I was 11 years old when this happened. I remember the flooding near Moores diner on Lancaster Ave. One thing that stuck with me that there were hundreds or more of hot dogs just floating in the water under the Bigamin St bridge from the Berks packaging plant where they made the hot dogs. Lol the things that make a lasting impression on an 11 year old kid 😉

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