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I. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND (Derived chiefly from interviews with the Editor, City Editor, and the Publisher of the Port Jervis Union Gazette. A. Population Port Jervis has a population of approximately 9, 000 persons. The population is predominantly lower -middle and middle socio - economic class. Most residents are white Protestants. There are three saleable minority groups: Italian, Jewish, en c} Negro. B. Industry . The major source of income for Port Jervis is the tourist trade. There are numerous summer resort camps in the vicinity. There are only a few manufacturing plants in the town: a silver plant, a textile mill, and a few smaller industries. A large number of employees of the Erie Railroad live here. C. Geography Port Jervis is located in the so-called Tri-State area, where the boundaries of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York intersect. Four dams are in the area. Wallenpaupack Dam is a tremendous dam located at Hawley, Pennsylvania, about thirty-five miles from Port Jervis. The water distance from the town as computed by Army engi- neers approximates 44-3/4 miles. There are reservoirs in the area and a brook in the northern portion of the town. The Delaware River runs along Me southern boundary. The Neversink River runs along the eastern border and at one point separates a small section of the city from the rest. (See map of Port Serves, N. Y. - page 4) D. Previous Floods . From time to time the area has been flooded or threatened with flood. In 1901, a flood occurred which was characterized by in- habitants as serious. In 1903, the Delaware River overflowed, and there was water in the main street. In 1904 there was another inundation.

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In 1922, the reservoir dam above the city appeared to be about to burst so that splashboards were pulled and certain areas of the town were washed out. In 193~3, water deluged one section of the town. In 1942, a flood broke at nearby Seller~rille and bodies which washed down from Hawley were picked up in fort Jervis. Almost annually the r e i s s om e po s s ibility of flo od damag e . E. The Flood of August 19, 1955 On Wednesday night, August 17, and Thursday morning, August 18, Hurricane Diane hit the Tri-State area. There were heavy rains throughout the county, and the ground was saturated so that there was considerable run-off. There were showers cluring the day on Thursday, and by 10:30 p. m. the river was so high that the sirens were blown and the entire Fire Department was alerted and called out. At 2:05 a. m., Friday, the Mayor declared a state of emergency and turned the city over to City Defense. By 3:30 a. m. the underpass leading to an area known as "The Acre, " which lies between Me rail- road and the Delaware River, was blocked off. This underpass is also an exit from the city to Matamoras. The river continued to rise from its normal crest of three feet until 6:00 a. m. when it reached a crest of twenty-three feet, eleven inches, which it held for one hour. There was further flooding in the area covering the railroad tracks. In many places the water rose to five or six feet, and there were fourteen inches of water in the main street at one time. In some cases people in the inundate] regions were carried out of their homes by Fire Department volunteers. Others packed their belongings in cars and moved out as the water began to reach into their yards. The river began to recede after one hour, at the rate of six to eight inches per hour. When Governor Harriman visited the town late Saturday afternoon, he declared a state of emergency and called in the Mutual Aid Society. As a result, a large assortment of fir e -trucks, pumper s and other vehicle s began to move toward Port Jervis on Saturday evening to assist in the cleanup. The Fire Department radio was on for ninety-six continuous hours with three operators. Total Fire Department personnel and equipment in operation in Port Jervis during the emergency period consisted of 1, 000 firemen, thirty-four engine companies, a ladcler c ompany, two ~ e s cue vehicle s, two ambulance s and sixty-five portable 6

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pumps. Seventy-three piece s of equiprr~ent and numerous car s came in under the Mutual Ail} program from seven nearby countie s. Two Army dukws and three helicopters also were in the area. Port Jervis had an active Civil Defense organization and had sometime previously been named as an evacuation point for residents of New York City in the event of an air raid. Civil Defense was active during the flood and the clean-up. The Fire Department (which con- sisted solely of a Chief and two Assistant Chiefs on a part-time basis) and Police Department were augmented during this period by regular auxiliaries and volunteers, as well as by emergency volunteers. 1. The Union Gazette flood report: The Friday edition of the Union Gazette carried this lead story: "August 19, 1955--Hurricane Diane splashed its turbulent waters on the Tri-States area during the past twenty-four hours and Mayor James E. Cole In the dark days of the early morning at 2:05 turned the City over to Civil Defense Author- ities by declaring the City of Port Pelvis in a state of emer- gency. "Rushing waters inundated all the surrounding areas of the city causing mass evacuation of the entire First Ward beyond the railroad tracks, the Tri-States area in the Fourth Ward and all lowlands throughout the city. ''Streams which just a few short hours before had been barren, overflowed their banks, isolating Port Jervis from all local arteries leading into the city. All fire companies of the city were alerted early in the evening to perform lihe major portion of re s cue work. "Concrete bridges were ripped up on every highway causing huge amounts of damage, while Route 6 was smashed by three landslides toward the Lookout, while 6 was taking a terrific beating by swirling waters thundering off the mountain at Milford. "Communications of the Tri-States Associated Telephone Company were severed into Pike County and also to the west 7

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of Port Ferris and an estimation of the extent of the damage to the lines was impossible yet today. Erie Railroad lines were crippled with the washouts west of Port Jervis. " The Saturday, August 20, issue of the Union Gazette recorcled that the Mayor had estimated! damage of over a million dollars from the flood which had isolated the city on Friday: ". . . The Delaware River reached a crest at 23 feet, 11 inches at 6 a. m. yesterday following 24 hours of rain in which more than 7 inches were recorded in the city. Heavy rains pre- vailed in all of the area surrounding Port Jervis...A river observer reported that after reaching the near-record level, it held for about an hour before starting to recede. By 6 o'clock last night when he last checked the river gauge, the level had dropped to 17. 8 feet. He stated that the reduction had been gradual, about 6 to 8 inches an hour. . .As the flood waters began to recede they left behind a mass of mud which covered stre ets, homes, furniture within the home s, and ruined gardens and lawns. The last of the waters were not gone yet this morning, but nevertheless, the cleanup started anal continued unabated. " 2. The official Fire Department report, made by the Fire Chief of Port Jervis, reads in part as follows: " Fir st call 8: 30 p. m. Thur s day, August 1 9, to pump out cel- far, 28 Coleman Ste Run-off brook overflowing. 9:45 p. m. Chief called. All companies alerted. 11:15 - ladders to evacuate number three zone. 11:55 - Evacuation. Seven- hundred people evacuated from the West End, River Sicle, Tri- States and Fourth Ward on Friday. " 3. The official Police report reads in part as follows: "Emergency period 2:35 a. m. August 19 to 5 p. m. August 29. At 2:35 a. m., August 19, a state of emergency was declared. At this point entry to and exit from the city on Routes 6 and 206, 42, and 97 near Sparrowbush were blocked. Water covered the River Roacl. 8

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t'In addition to the regular Police, there were 20 auxiliary Police. The National Guard (40 in number) which had been available left at 7 a. m. on Saturday. At 8 p. m. on Saturday, 6 auxiliary Police patrolled on Ri firer side s action till claylight. The regular Police were on duty in the Fourth Ward, ant} in the Tri-States there were 3-man details of auxiliaries on foot from ~ p. m. until daylight. " F. The False Report There is good reason to believe that residents were sensitized to any reports concerning the river, floods, dam, epidemics, and so forth. On Friday and Saturday a number of rumors circulated to a limited extent concerning the Wallenpaupack Dam, Me re servoir s above the city, and the possibility of a typhoid epidemic. Official checks were made with the Dam which may account for the fact that these rumors gained little, if any, momentum. Many people had been evacuated from their homes, and were only beginning to return to them. Hundreds were working around! the clock pumping out cellars, removing debris, helping evacuees, arid taking other actions designed to re star e the ci ty to normal condition. The As sociated Pre s s wire carried a story at 2: 30 a. m. Fri- day to the effect that at Hawley people saw water coming over the Dam, and that there was fear that the Dam had broken. This report was not published, but the word spread. At 6:30 a. m., the AP denied the story. The Publisher of the Union Gazette stated that this rumor had c~rcu- lated before, but that no action had followed. There had also been a rumor that the drinking water carried typhoid fever. This story was stoppe c! without great excitement. The Monday, August 22, edition of the Union Gazette described the visit of Governor Harriman to the city, and also carried a descrip- tion of a "false message" which caused an exodus on Saturday night: "Added to the confusion of the flood and mess it left behind was the near panic which gripped the city on Saturday night and early Sunday morning when a false rumor, Me source of which was unknown, spread like wildfire. The rumor had the Wallenpaupack Dam bursting, ant} throwing a massive volume 9

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of water into the narrow valley above :Lackawaxan, thence into the Delaware River, and on down upon already stricken Port Jervis . " The rumor, whi ch had spr e ad like wildfir e throughout the city, in both high and low sections, caused our citizens to begin fleeing the city. Before (the report) could be halted, most of the city was on the move. People dressed in only night clothing rushed from their homes and to their cars, some taking a suitcase of belongings along. Others fled with just the clothing they had on. The cars moved into Elks Brox Park and up Route 6 to get to the highest possible ground. "The city Fire Department, with loudspeakers blaring, went about the city attempting to calm the populace and telling them the report was untrue and to return to their homes. Ralph Frederick of the Union Gazette staff, and a representative of Station WD:UC, put that station on the air after midnight and repeated the story that the rumor was untrue for countless minutes on the air. Gradually the truth began to dawn on those who had fled. They returned to the city, but not until after they had cr eated one of the gr eate st near dis aster s in the history of the city. The actions of some could have resulted in a worse catastrophe than the flood itself. "By morning, however, the scare had passed and people were back to normal. " 10