Capital Region Scrapbook

Downpour in July ’48 turned city into a lake

Monday, July 7, 2014
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Capital Region Scrapbook

Barrett Street — identifiable by Ferro’s Restaurant on the left — becomes Barrett River.
Barrett Street — identifiable by Ferro’s Restaurant on the left — becomes Barrett River.

The city famous for Erie Boulevard looked more like Lake Erie on Tuesday, July 13, 1948.

Tons of summer rain flooded parts of Schenectady during an hourlong storm. Cars were unable to roll; men and women managed the trick, rolling up their pants and skirts to travel sidewalks and streets that had quickly turned into rivers.

Broadway, Erie Boulevard and Union Street were all in deep trouble — deep water trouble.

“The ‘new look’ in dresses took a beating at most deep-water spots as women doffed shoes and stockings and waded the torrents holding skirts thigh-high,” observed reporter Earl Dunckel of the Schenectady Gazette.

“At one GE parking lot, male drivers shed even trousers to wade through waist-high water to their vehicles.”

Others had more serious problems. Some motorists became stuck on pavement under railroad underpasses. Attendants at an Erie Boulevard parking garage were forced to smash the windows of locked cars to steer them out of the flooded basement level.

“Two shiny new automobiles remained inside where the dirty water lapped and gurgled over their upholstery,” Dunckel observed.

Firefighters — who had always appreciated water on the job — were not happy with the zillions of hydrogen and oxygen atoms that had teamed up to flood the basement of the central Fire Station.

While some adults could smile at the watery end of the world . . . or at least Tuesday . . . kids were overjoyed. Bunches were seen swimming and playing in streets, enjoying the life aquatic.

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