SHS and the Flood of 72


How many Flood of 72 stories do you know? A map of the area surrounding Southside High School as well as a picture of SHS during the flood appear below. The green area designates where Elmira was under water. Click on the map to see a larger, clearer version of it.

And where were you in the Flood of '72? For Elmirans, particularly along the Chemung River and on Elmira's Southside, it was a flood within a flood.

picture courtesy of Chemung Historical Society

SHS looking NE across Main Street

Elmira was a city divided, with all bridges unusable at the peak of the disaster. Communications were knocked out downtown and power was off.

The flood crest held during most of the day of June 23. By 8PM it had dropped 2 feet in West Elmira. But the worst news was yet to come.

As the water receded, it was obvious that Elmira had been damaged as never before. The Southside was deeply scarred. Roaring down out of the Roricks Glen narrows, the river had slammed into the unprotected "flood trap" of Homewood, Bonaview and Morrowfield Avenues west of the city line and at 4:10 am had gone over the West Hudson Street earthen dike. Its mainstream had coursed east in a path of destruction between W. Hudson and Partidge Streets past the rear of Parley Coburn School, across South Main Street and pounded the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad elevated track embankment.

Four Erie-Lackawanna underpasses became the mill-races of the flood - Henry Street, Pennsylvania Avenue, Hudson Street and Chemung Place. As it spewed through the underpasses the flood ravaged homes and yards. Porches and garages were ripped loose, shrubbery flattened, siding torn away by the riptide.

On Pennsylvania Avenue, the waters extended a few houses past Franklin Street. The Main St. bridge was damaged, but opened later to emergency traffic. On South Main Street, the water went beyond Southside High School into the Miller Street underpass and almost reached O'Gorman Street. Maple Avenue was under water to Notre Dame High School. American LaFrance's plant on Erie Street had 7 feet of water on the ground floor.

Some say Elmira never recovered from the flood. But SHS did. Since that time, the high school moved into a new building south on Main Street near the old Remington Rand plant, but the old building still remains. It has been restored and has a new occupant. And you can still see it much as it was when we were students there. Be sure and drive by, maybe even go inside and look around next time you're in the vicinity.

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