Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
As far as hurricanes go, Agnes was not much of a tempest -- only a Category 1 storm when it hit Florida on June 19, 1972, and downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it moved into the Washington area. But Agnes's torrential rainfalls caused some of the worst flooding ever recorded in the Washington area, as well as in Pennsylvania and New York, and made the storm more than twice as destructive as any previous hurricane in U.S. history.
By Bart Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer
The Washington area struggled out of one of the worst flood disasters in its history last night as the Potomac River overflowed its banks, forcing new evacuations south of the Capitol.
In suburban Virginia's Prince William County, discovery of two more bodies brought the area death toll to 13.
More than 40 hours after the torrential rains that spawned the initial flooding here ceased, swollen rivers and streams in Western Maryland and Virginia joined forces to send billions of gallons of churning brown water downstream towards Washington.
The crest, or high water mark, reached the city about 1:45 a.m. and was expected to take some six hours to pass before the waters would recede substantially. Officials at the U.S. Weather Service predicted it would be a week before the river flow returns to normal.
As many as 125,000 people in Fairfax and Prince William counties were without drinking water and close to half a million others in Northern Virginia were being asked to curtail water use.
Fairfax officials announced last night, however, that they hoped to have full water service restored within 24 hours. They said some restraint would probably be necessary during the day today but that all homes should have some tap water.
Northern Virginia's water supply was cut back drastically when flood waters pouring over the Occoquan dam shut down pumping facilities in a building below.
President Nixon declared both Maryland and Virginia as disaster areas last night; federal funds will be made available in the affected areas. New York, Pennsylvania and Florida, also hit by the same storm, were also added to the disaster list, and the White House said federal agencies had been directed to assure that all appropriate funds also are available for D.C.
In Maryland and Virginia, where thousands were driven from their homes Thursday by the threat of floods and the possibility that dams might break, most persons were back in their homes yesterday. Damage to suburban residential property appeared greatest in Virginia's Prince William County where a number of homes and trailers were submerged by the waters.
Late last night, Maryland state police evacuated the town of Havre de Grace in Harford County because of danger of collapse of the huge Conowingo hydroelectric dam upstream of the town on the rain-swollen Susquehanna River. A curfew was imposed to prevent looting; the governor also ordered the evacuation of Port Deposit in Cecil County ...
As the floodwaters spilled over the seawall near the Kennedy Center shortly before midnight last night a crowd gathered on the promenade to watch.
"I never saw anything like it," said Gary Rosenberg, 19, a student at George Washington University. "I heard it on the radio and I wanted to see what a flood is like. I've been in an earthquake, I've seen a tornado, but I've never seen anything like this."
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