1972 Flooding in the Chemung Valley
In 2012, The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes debuted Tales from Agnes: 1972 Flooding in the Chemung Valley, a podcast series of local stories about the 1972 Hurricane Agnes flood. When the Chemung River overwhelmed the regional floodwalls, it took 29 lives, swept away whole homes and destroyed millions of dollars of property. Yet despite the tragedy it caused, the Flood was also a turning point for the area. The Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes and The ARTS Council brought StoryCorps, the national oral history project, to Elmira and Corning, June 22 – 27, 2009, to record eighteen interviews. Trained facilitators from StoryCorps’ Door-to-Door Program recorded stories from flood survivors at the Steele Memorial Library in Elmira and the Southeast Steuben County Library in Corning. StoryCorps interviews are not included in this podcast series, but are available to the public at both libraries.
In addition to the StoryCorps component, a toll free phone number was established to digitally record the stories of anyone who wished to call. The phone number was made available in June 2009 and was open until early 2012. Over 100 people called and left stories. These calls are the basis of the podcasts.
Stories were also left on The ARTS Council’s blog. Tales from Agnes: 1972 Flooding in the Chemung Valley was supported by the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes, and the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.
The podcast series is also available as a CD, for sale in The Gallery @ The ARTS Council, 79 West Market Street, Corning.
The first episode, Premonitions and Propaganda, examines the days leading up to the flood and the information (or lack thereof) received by local residents from governmental officials.
The second podcast, Danger and Devastation, describes the bizarre experiences and sense of isolation related by witnesses of the flooding. It is a powerful episode with startling memories from that day in the Southern Tier.
Strandedness and Salvation tells of people taking risks to help each other in the midst of the flooding. It describes community members trying to rescue stranded possessions and people; some were saved and some were not.
Most of the stories recounted from the Flood are harrowing tales of courage, loss and rebuilding, but out of the devastation, people also shared humorous and ironic tales. This episode, Anecdotes from Agnes, recounts some of them.
Episode 5 – Ruin and Renewal (17:34)
Ruin and Renewal focuses on the aftermath of the flood and the monumental recovery effort that eventually restored the Twin Tiers communities.