ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – For Twin Tiers residents in 1972, Tropical Storm Agnes was one of the most devastating experiences. Heavy rainfall was a main factor, but without the south to north orientation of the rivers, the flood might have not been as intense.
The direction of flow for every river is dependent on one thing: gravity. According to the United States Geologic Survey, a river forms from water moving from a higher elevation to a lower elevation. Here in the Twin Tiers, elevation differs a lot thanks to the many mountains and valleys scattered across the region.
Elmira residents fifty years ago witnessed a catastrophic flood thanks to a major rainstorm that formed during the late stages of Tropical Storm Agnes. Precipitation amounts were recorded at nearly seven and a half inches for Downtown Elmira, a record that still holds today.
The Chemung River just south of Downtown Elmira flows from south to north. This is due to elevation changes, where the elevation is higher near Pirozzolo Park and lower towards Brand Park. Downtown Elmira can be a very flood-prone area thanks to the Chemung River flowing northeast into town.
If you put together the heavy rainfall from Tropical Storm Agnes and the direction of the flow of Chemung River, you get excess water flowing out of the river and into Downtown Elmira. In other words, a flood happens. The amount of floodwater experienced back in June 1972 is still unmatched to this day.