March 13, 1907: “Record flood inundates the city”
When the flood of March 1907 deluged the city at the confluence of three rivers, Pittsburg was spelled without its h.
This disaster smashed previous flood records set in 1832 and 1884 because the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers rose to a height above 36.6 feet. After rain began falling on March 12, the rivers bulged with debris, ice floes and even small out buildings from farms. In Downtown, water covered Sixth Street, surrounded the Wabash railway terminal and the Pittsburg & Lake Erie Railroad station.
During the height of the flood, John S. Bell, superintendent of the Humane Society, stopped all teamsters from using horses to haul people from Allegheny City to Pittsburg. Mr. Bell said the water reached the horses’ abdomens, causing the animals to cramp and suffer greatly.
Residents of Allegheny City, now called the North Side, were angry that police had not notified them of the potential for such serious flooding. Many of them fled their neighborhood by paddling along Lacock, West Robinson or Federal streets in boats and skiffs. Others fled to Pittsburg by train. In just three hours, the Ft. Wayne rail depot sold 7,000 tickets.
On this date, March 13, 106 years ago, flooding damaged the Turtle Creek Valley as well as Carnegie and Oakdale. On the previous night and the morning of March 13, Deer Creek rose to a height of 16 feet, engulfing a railroad engine and seven railroad cars near Harmarville. Three employees of the West Penn Railroad drowned in the Allegheny River and the flood washed away a railroad bridge. Besides those those fatalities,at least 12 more people perished in the disaster. More than 300,000 employees who worked in iron or steel plants were idled.
In its March 15 evening edition, the Pittsburg Press described the scene this way: “There is probably not a man, woman or child in Pittsburg who did not feel the effect of the flood, directly or indirectly. While the water itself only damaged the lowlands, it paralyzed the traffic of both the steam and electric railways; brought business to a standstill, closing mills, mines, factories and busy marts of trade; crippled the lighting plants, plunging the city into Stygian darkness; interrupted telephone and telegraph communication, and in countless other ways, stopped the wheels of progress.”
Today is the anniversary of that destructive flood. It happened 106 years ago.
You can take a closer look at the flooded city at our Zoom page.
— Marylynne Pitz