The Codorus Creek couldn't drink much more.
It had rained for 24 hours straight, and the channel was about to overtake the Market Street bridge where George Kroll and fellow firefighters stood watch. The 40-year-old deputy chief of the York City Fire Department had already spent the day and night urging people to evacuate homes near the creek and pumping basements filled with rain water.
He was sure the water would flow into York City streets within 30 minutes.
A surprise: Forty years later, Kroll, 80, is still not sure why the next few minutes of June 22, 1972, unfolded as they did.
The water suddenly receded, dropping a foot in almost no time. Thinking they'd dodged a bullet, the firefighters retreated to the Vigilant Fire Station on West Market Street to wait for dawn.
They weren't there long before someone came rushing into the fire station to announce the water was again on the rise. Back at the bridge, Kroll caught a glimpse of a rat swimming to safety, an odd image he clearly remembers four decades later.
"I knew the end was in sight," he said.
Streets disappear: Soon, the banks of the Codorus Creek disappeared beneath water. The flood swallowed the Market, Princess, Philadelphia and King street bridges, not stopping until it reached Newberry Street to the west, Kroll said.
From her top-floor apartment in the Codorus Hotel, 28-year-old Genevieve Ray spent the evening of June 21, 1972, watching the creek swell. By 11 p.m., she took notice of the firemen gathered on the bridge.
"It was like, 'Oh, the officials are here,'" she said.
Ray, a local newspaper reporter at the time, grabbed the bags she'd already packed for an upcoming trip and ventured outside to take pictures of Hurricane Agnes pounding York City.
She estimated it was about 8 a.m. when the city's low-lying areas began to fill with water. At the intersection of West Market and Newberry streets, water crept to the third step of the former Western National Bank, she said.
Travel by boat: After the flood, residents and emergency responders used boats to get around and rescue stranded people. Unaccustomed to this type of disaster, the fire department had to borrow private boats, Kroll said.
According to a newspaper account of the time, Agnes caused about $10 million in damage to more than 2,200 city buildings. At least 100 families were displaced.
Among the flooded buildings was the Vigilant Fire Station, which filled with 5 feet of water, Kroll said. Most of the areas east of the creek, where the city's elevation quickly climbs, were spared, he said.
At his North Codorus Township home, Kroll speculated during a recent interview that the temporary recession of water might have corresponded with some kind of action taken at Indian Rock Dam.
"It crept up on people slowly," Kroll said. "I don't think anybody anticipated we would have a flood of that magnitude."
-- Reach Erin James at 505-5439 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ydcity.