Previous Speakers

Bookend Around 'Agnes'

Kirk House and Tim Marshall - 3/27/2013

The area's Agnes Flood of 1972 was bookended in the CIRG's February and March Coffee programs in the Riverfront Café of Corporate Headquarters.  On February 13, Kirk House of the Steuben County Historical Society led his audience in a pictorial review of the flood.  At the March 13 program, Tim Marshall of the Steuben County Office of  Emergency Services told of that agency' post-flood programs and activities to bring the area's alert systems to the present ability to more reliably predict where and how area localities will be impacted by our changeable Chemung Valley weather.

House's often dramatic images were all-too familiar for most of the people in the audience as the many familiar photos came up on the screen.  Most of those photos are included in a book published by the Historical Society, copies of which were available for purchase.  Several in the audience had their own photos of the same scenes in House's presentation.  One woman even had a very large photo album packed full of photos she had saved.  After House's program and the usual question-and-answer period, House joined the woman and they paged through her collectible. 

Through the Cafe's windows, the Chemung River flows well within its banks in stark contrast to the image of a section \of Corning's North side at the height of the Agnes Flood of June 1972. 

 Marshall described the history of his office, which was established as a the Chemung River Basin Flood Warning Support Group, a non-profit endeavor of Chemung, Steuben and Schuyler Counties and their respective municipalities

He told his audience that while many in the area believed the Tioga and Hammond Dams in northern Pennsylvania would pretty much solve the areas flooding problems, that has not been the case.  "Agnes happened 42 years ago...and it could happen again," Marshall said, adding that Irene in 2006 and Lee in 2011 caused considerable flooding on our region.  He credited Dr. Richard (Dix) McDonald, the Corning School District superintendent, with spearheading the drive to do things differently in order to gather better information about all the things that can impact our regional drainage pattern.

Examining the region's flood history showed the need for better predicting "flash flooding" and pinpointing when and where those problems would likely occur.  The mechanism for dong this is the present area-wide network of river level and rainfall monitoring stations.  The amateur radio network so valuable to the City of Corning after Agnes continues to be active and ready to deliver instant communications should normal communication links be knocked out of service.  At the heart of the system is the emphasis on "Three C's – Communication, Coordination, and Cooperation."    

Federal Appalachian Assistance funds have enabled the systems set up to monitor the impact of ice buildups along the rivers, climate sensors (wind speed and direction, rainfall amounts, etc.).  The result is today's system of 8 full climate monitoring stations, 22 rainfall stations and 14 river level stations. 

Marshall noted that as a nonprofit, the system depends greatly on volunteers who monitor not only the information collected but periodically go into the field to verify the accuracy of the units to assure they are in proper working order.

In addition to the flood-related monitoring, Marshall's agency also has a Chemical Hazard Information Team (CHIT) that has area specialists on call for accidental chemical or hazmat spills.  This team is called into action to examine these kinds of problem so the fire and other emergency response teams have the information they need when they arrive on the scene...the nature of the spill, its dangers and how to treat it.

Together, the February and March programs represented a complementary package dealing with our area's past and future with respect to water-related emergencies.

  Agnes Flood

<< Back to Previous Speakers List Page