[elmira-ny.com] - Keeping memories alive...photo courtesy of Tom Drum...

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  - Jim Kissane -

Wow - 30 years ! It doesn't seem that long ago. I lived through it and it still seems like not that long ago. I was working as a Computer Operator at Kenndy Valve's datacenter, which was at the time was in the old LeValley-McLeod building near Church and Baldwin.

On the night of the 21st, I went to work amidst the continuing rain that was pouring down on Elmira. At 3 AM on the 22nd, as was normal custom, I had to make a run down to the KV plant on Sullivan St to pickup the timecards from the 2nd shift and going down water St, heard that the water was starting to splash over the dike. Returning to the office, we figured it wouldn't be too bad and moved all of our computer media up to the 2nd floor for safety's sake. By 5AM the streets were flooded and by 7 AM, we were retreating up Baldwin St in flooded streets with the water rising fast.

Earlier that morning, I had heard that they were trying to roust people from their endangered properties along Spaulding St, and that a number of residents didn't want to leave. All of that day, the reports on the radio continued. Phone communications were limited, but the media did a good job of reporting what they could.

On the evening of the 23rd, I was recalled to my Army Reserve unit, for disaster relief duty. This was significant since in times like these, it was customary for the National Guard to be called up, since that was under the control of the Governor, but the Army Reserve could only be called up by President Nixon or the Congress. For the next 3 weeks, I got to see 1st hand the damage that Agnes had done to our beautiful city.

The 1st couple of days were spent organizing food and supplies distribution at the County Fairgrounds, then duty supervising pumping stations behind the dikes where we had setup large diesel engines to run the dike system's protective mechanisms.

Somewhere around the 26th of June, I was told to be the driver for one of the US Army's "Big Picture" camera teams from Washington, that were sent in to survey and chronicle the devastation. We had full access to all of the carnage, and it wasn't pretty. From North Corning to Chemung we surveyed and took footage of the ravages of the flood. I never saw the "final product" but I remember vividly the ravaged neighborhoods, the incredible destruction, and the weary residents who had had their lives turned upside down.