Kay Bufflap paced the floor all night. She had two small children to keep safe.
There was no electricity, no water, no car to use for a getaway. And nowhere else to
"It was very windy, and the rain, it was just pounding and pounding all night long," she said. "I thought the house walls would collapse. I just thought it was never going to end. This wasn't like a thunderstorm rain. This was something different."
Bufflap, now 63, was 23 years old, and living in Seven Valleys when Hurricane Agnes pounded York County from Wednesday, June 21, to Friday, June 23, in 1972.
Agnes swept in close to 16 inches of rain, killed five people and caused more than
$34 million in damage countywide.
Bufflap rode out the storm without her husband, John, who was working in West York and couldn't get home. He eventually went to his parents' home nearby. He had the family's only car.
Bufflap packed clothes, hoping she and her children could go to a neighbor's house during the hurricane, but the neighbor convinced her to stay home. He guaranteed her the flooding water would eventually move to the backyard, make its way down the embankment and into a nearby tributary of Codorus Creek.
The young mother peered outside during the night and saw the flood carry away her children's play area. As daylight appeared, she saw cars from a nearby body shop float downstream.
"It just felt like everything was being taken from you," Bufflap recalled. "I just remember the fear."
Dennis Deffendall held the basket over his head, trudging through flood, while his wife, Sue Deffendall, concentrated on keeping her head above the high waters.
Their 8-day-old son, Jeffrey, was asleep in that plastic basket filled with clothes.
The family fled their flooded Glen Rock home after being awakened by sirens.
"There was a river rushing by our house out front," recalled Sue Deffendall, 66. "We looked (outside) and we saw steel doors and groceries from the grocery store rushing down the street with the water."
Mother and child waited in a nearby garage on higher ground while Dennis Deffendall returned to their home to rescue their dog. The family made it to safety at Sue Deffendall's parents' house in the borough.
On June 22, their fourth wedding anniversary, Sue and Dennis Deffendall were in the middle of the storm.
Ronald Hontz just wanted to escape the worst of Hurricane Agnes. He was a bank examiner, a federal employee, working at a bank on Continental Square in York City. He was given the day off on June 22 because of the ongoing rain. The area was quickly flooding.
At that time, Hontz -- now a 65-year-old Shrewsbury borough resident -- was 25 years old and living in South Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County. He was staying at a motel in York while doing bank work in the area.
Concerned that the rising Susquehanna River water would take out the Interstate 83 bridge in Harrisburg, Hontz decided to cut his York assignment short and head home. As soon as he crossed the bridge, its lights went out.
Hontz got home, but at 5 a.m. June 23 he was awakened from sleep. The area was being evacuated.
"The cops are going down the street screaming, 'Get out! Get out! The river's coming!'" he recalled. "I left York because of flooding and came back to Wilkes-Barre, and I ran smack dab into much worse."
Hontz grabbed some clothes and headed for Scranton.
Terry Baker's family and Chanceford Township home were spared the flood, so he knew they would be safe as he followed orders to help with rescue efforts in Harrisburg.
Baker was a deputy waterways patrolman with the York district of what is now the state Fish and Boat Commission.
"We were in boats going through neighborhoods rescuing people standing on porches and rooftops," recalled Baker, 66. "Some people were scared to death."
Baker's duties included checking on the safety of state police troopers who guarded the Governor's Mansion from the second floor. Gov. Milton Shapp was not home, Baker recalled.
"The water was so deep we rowed over the (mansion's) wrought iron fence and right in the front door of the Governor's Mansion, in a boat," he recalled.
Marshall Werner, his mother and their relatives kept a watchful eye on Codorus Creek as Hurricane Agnes overtook York City. The Werners lived in the 100 block of Stevens Avenue along the creek.
"When Agnes hit, I could hear the water rushing down the creek," said Werner, now 76. "Where we were, it's a miracle the water from the creek didn't rise over the walls. We were luckier than some other areas."
After the storm, Werner said he checked on his grocery store in the 100 block of North Newberry Street. The store had minimal water damage, and the groceries were still good.
"But in other areas, people had a lot of stuff piled up outside that got damaged," Werner said. "Parts of Newberry Street and Market Street were flooded. (People) had to use boats to get around. So much got destroyed."
After Agnes, county residents worked to
clean up their properties, repair the damage and get their lives back to normal.
Bufflap's husband returned the day after the all-night storm. As their neighbor predicted, flood waters receded from the their property. They were able to remain in their Seven Valleys home.
The Deffendalls settled in their home after a week of cleaning it out, Sue Deffendall said. The family eventually moved to a house on a hill in Glen Rock.
Dennis Deffendall, a retired teacher, died in 2009 at age 62. Sue Deffendall handles claims for Keller-Brown Insurance Services in Shrewsbury Borough. Jeffrey Deffendall, 40, also lives in Glen Rock and does wood-floor installations. The Deffendalls had another son, Andrew, in 1976. He is an estimator for Cameo Services in the city.
Hontz returned home five days after Agnes left Wilkes-Barre. There was still a foot of water in his second-floor apartment. Hontz moved, quit his banking job and began working for the U.S. Small Business Administration issuing loans to businesses recovering from natural disasters. Now retired, Hontz moved to Shrewsbury in 1983.
Baker returned to his family after completing a day of rescue duty in Harrisburg. He was a waterways patrolman for three years. He retired after 28 years at the former Caterpillar plant.
Werner, who now lives on Madison Avenue in the city, said many of his relatives who experienced Agnes have passed away. Agnes changed lives and the area, he said.
A 7-UP bottling plant at the corner of Newberry and Princess streets -- where the York County Food Bank is based -- moved its operations out of the flood-ravaged area, Werner recalled.
Nearby, a line of severely damaged South Newberry Street houses were repaired and sold to new neighbors, he said.
Hurricane Agnes is one of those once-in-a-lifetime occurrences that people would like to forget but can't erase from their minds, Werner said.
"It was just a freak of nature," he said. "It happened and it hit at night. In the daytime, when it all subsided, you could see what was done. It's history. I hope we don't have to go through it again."
-- Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at firstname.lastname@example.org.