The rain started in the morning of August 5, 1843 around 7:30 AM and increased in intensity all day in southeastern Pennsylvania. Area residents reported that by 3:00 PM winds had reached gale force and the rain continued at a furious pace. In the evening about 7:00 PM a wall of water, fueled by water levels that rose 5.5 inches in 40 minutes, came rushing down both the Crum and Ridley Creeks without warning. The water overflowed the banks of Crum Creek by more than 20 feet and Ridley Creek by 21 feet. From reconstructed records it appears that a hurricane or strong tropical storm hit the region and was responsible for the rain and wind. An excerpt from George Smith’s History of Delaware County from 1862 states: “At daybreak, the sky indicated rain, and about seven o’clock a moderate fall set in, which, while it slackened, never entirely ceased until between the hours of two and six o’clock that afternoon, when the extraordinary opening of “the windows of heaven” took place which made such extended ruin and misery in a brief period of time. The rain, when falling most abundantly, came down in such showers that the fields in that part of the county removed several miles back from the river are said to have been flooded with water almost immediately, and where the road was lower than the surface of the ground on either side, the water poured into the highway in a constant stream of miniature cascades. The lightning played incessantly through the falling torrents, reflected from all sides in the watery mirrors in the fields producing a weird and spectral appearance, such that those who witnessed it could evermore recall.” As most of the area’s commerce was centered around waterways the storm wreaked havoc with the many mills located along the creeks, and it was reported that no mill or milldam escaped destruction or severe damage. As many as 52 county bridges were swept away by torrents of water. The water carried away homes, dams, bridges, factories, livestock and people, in total 19 Delaware County residents perished during the storm. Delaware County has been visited by monster storms with names like Irene, Agnes, Hugo and Gloria over the years. But none, it seems, was more destructive than the Great Flood of 1843 that was also likely the result of a tropical system.
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