Pieces of the Past
Artifacts, Documents, and Primary Sources
from Letchworth Park History

One of the greatest natural disasters in Genesee Valley History took place in June of 1972. A hurricane by the name of "Agnes" came ashore on the panhandle of Florida on June 19th, and moved north through Georgia and the Carolinas. She went back out to sea, recharged her energy and hit Southeastern New York State on June 22nd.

Although Agnes was only a catagory 1 hurricane, she soon stalled over north-central Pennsylvania. Caught up in a slow moving low pressure system, the storm drifted slowly northeastward into New York State. The area, that had already been soaked by showers the week before Agnes arrived, could not absorb the six to twelve inch rainfall that fell over Pennsylvania and New York. Known locally as "The Flood of '72", the event would have a tremendous impact on Western New York and Letchworth Park.

The Gibson Family was living at the North End of the Park when the storm approached..Don Gibson had worked for Letchworth Park for nearly twenty six years - he was a Park Policeman now assigned to the Northern section. Don and his wife Norma had raised their three children in the Park and had seen many things. But nothing like this.....

Don was busy with his police duties but Norma took her camera to capture the tremendous power of the raging flood waters. Over the next days she took many slides documenting the power of the flood in and around Letchworth Park.

Unless noted, the following images come from the slides provided by the Gibson Family. They also provided us with much of the narrative and captions. We are grateful to Don and Norma for sharing their photographs and memories with us.

The Flood of '72 in Letchworth Park

"I heard on the news that with the rain from Hurricane Agnes, all rivers were rising rapidly and decided that we should have some pictures through the Park. I was amazed to see the gorge so full of raging water and sense it's power...." Norma Gibson


The Upper Falls and High Bridge......


photo 1

 The Upper Falls and High Bridge at normal flow.

photo 2 6/22/72

Above: The force of the water going over Upper Falls foams and sprays up to hide the Falls.

Right: On the 1st day the river below Upper Falls was so high that the normal 71 ' fall was cut in half. After the Flood a large amount of debris was revealed to have collected against the towers supporting the railroad bridge.

 photo 3 6/22/72



Between the Upper and Middle Falls....

Photo 4  

Photo 5 6/22/72

 Normal flow of the Genesee
River between Upper Falls and Middle Falls

 River is roaring down stream to Middle Falls

 Photo 6 6/23/72

Fast current creating some angry high waves.

Photo 7 6/23/72

Standing on the bank you are actually looking up at the savage river and the creasting waves; can also hear rocks and boulders tumbing in the current before going over Middle Falls and feel a little vibration in the ground.




The Middle Falls....

Photo 8

Photo 9 6/23/72

Normal View of Middle Falls

  Fast flowing water of Middle Falls
reveals no sudden drop


The View from Inspiration Point.....


Photo 10 6/23/72
 Middle Falls from Inspiration Points shows the foam and spray rises to nearly the top of the 107' height of the Falls.




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