It's March 1936 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers are rising rapidly with flooding likely. Eleven-year-old Billy Flynn and his seven-year-old brother Tommy are happy when school is cancelled. The boys’ excitement soon turns to fear and awe as the rivers overflow their banks and people are forced to flee from their homes and work. Soon they experience life as they've never known it, discovering real courage and honor along the way.
Author Mildred Flaherty based her tale on memories gleaned from family and friends who lived through the flood as children, as well as on careful research. She includes many historic photos plus maps, charts, and graphs of the flood’s impact on Pittsburgh, marking this as a lively piece of juvenile fiction grounded in frightening reality.
The Saint Patrick's Day Flood of 1936 left over 200 dead in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania region and at least 500 injured within the city. Over 135,000 people were driven from their homes as floodwaters rose to a record high of 46 feet, 21 feet above flood level. Thirty thousand WPA (Works Progress Administration) laborers rescued victims from flooded homes and cleaned up after the waters receded.
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. . . Billy watched Mom and Dad as they talked. Billy had never seen Mom look so worried. Except for the time last year when Dad lost his electrician's job and had to take the job digging ditches. Billy knew this was more than just another flood. He knew something awful was going to happen.
That evening after supper, the family sat silently and listened to the radio. The fire at Crucible Steel continued to burn out of control. Mayor McNair ordered all residents of Pittsburgh to stay at home. The weatherman said the rivers would probably crest at 33 feet tonight, 8 feet above flood level at the Point downtown.
Tommy poked Billy. “What's gonna happen?”
Billy shook his head. “I don't know, Tommy. I don't think anybody knows.”
. . . They started home in the dusk of the winter evening. No trolleys clattered along the rails. No street lights illuminated their way. The low storm clouds clamped the smog and soot tight on the city. Up ahead the sky had an odd red glow from the fires burning at the steel plant. A cold rainy wind swept through the empty streets. They hurried home through the gathering dark.
News Bulletin, 7 PM:
The water level at the Point is
46 feet21 feet above flood level. This is the highest level the
rivers have ever reached at the Point.
“I'm scared,” Tommy said. “I can't hardly see where I'm going.” He shuddered.