July 18, 1942: Late in the evening of Friday, July 17, 1942 heavy rain began falling in southern New York. The weather system producing the heavy rain and thunderstorms intensified and moved into Pennsylvania. The weather system stalled out over Smethport and Port Allegany PA, on Saturday, July 18th. Most of the rain, incredibly feel in just a 5-hour period. People living in the region reported in the local press after the storm that the electrical storm was the worst they had ever witnessed. Water quickly began to accumulate and rise rapidly, many thought that they would drown. In the Austin, PA, many people were quoted as saying that “the rain did not come down in drops, it came down in streams.” The dam at the Williamson Pulp and Paper Company at Austin was breached and immediately flooded the town of Austin. There were reports of massive quantities of gravel and rock being washed down small gullies and even reports of bedrock being ripped out and carried downstream as the relentless rain continued. In Emporium, Pennsylvania, the estimated rainfall rate was more than 10 inches per hour. There was massive flooding over a short period of time. There were many accounts of an “almost instantaneous rise” in the water from 5 to 8 or 10 feet. Buildings in Austin were being knocked off their foundations and the water was 4 to 5 feet deep on the main street. The heaviest rain fell in Smethport, Pennsylvania. Some locations received an incredible 34.50 inches of rain from the event. A rainfall total of 30.7 inches of rain in a 4 1/2-hour period set a world record at Smethport.
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