Where visitors now can leisurely view works by Violet Oakley, Mary Cassatt and other artists, there was a sense of urgency on Sept. 8, 2011, as the basement and first floor were cleared out. First lady Susan Corbett helped move fragile items upstairs for safety.
The next day, the river crested at 25 feet in Harrisburg, 8 feet above flood stage but lower than many had feared.
Only a few inches of water penetrated the sprawling Georgian-style mansion, accumulating in an elevator shaft where it had seeped from soil saturated by pounding rain from the tropical storm and Hurricane Irene two weeks earlier, Mrs. Corbett said. Some gardens also were damaged, requiring corrective landscaping.
"We got lucky," she said in a telephone interview Thursday.
She and Gov. Tom Corbett spent a week living in a modular home 20 miles away at Fort Indiantown Gap, the Pennsylvania National Guard training site, before they were allowed to return to the 44-year-old residence.
For many other Harrisburg-area residents, Lee created more serious problems.
Harrisburg International Airport, which averages 4 inches of rainfall in September, was deluged by 13 inches over a five-day period that took Lee into account.
City officials said they evacuated thousands of people from low-lying areas that flooded, including many who sought refuge at temporary shelters set up by the American Red Cross. As the floodwaters receded, many others began pumping water out of their homes and shoveling the mucky mud that floods left behind.
Numerous roads and bridges were closed, resulting in detours and traffic jams. Many communities issued health advisories advising residents to boil water used for drinking and cooking because of flood damage to water and sewage plants.
Corbett ordered a two-day partial shutdown of state government, idling nearly 25,000 state employees in Harrisburg as well as those in state offices in Scranton and Reading.
No Harrisburg deaths were attributed to Lee, although it was blamed for three deaths elsewhere in Dauphin County, said Stephen Libhart, the county emergency management director.