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Former Scranton mayor recalls Agnes response

Nearly 50 years after devastating flooding hit Northeastern Pennsylvania, the people who lived through it all are reflecting on those fateful days.

SCRANTON, Pa. — Fifty years later, the floods of Agnes are still etched in the minds of countless residents, even those who didn't live in the hardest-hit areas. In June 1972, Eugene Peters was in his third year in office as the mayor of Scranton.

"The memory is as though it happened yesterday," said Peters.

Peters was sitting in his office when the news of severe flooding in Wilkes-Barre came over the airways. 

"President Nixon declared it as one of the worst disasters to ever happen in the United States, and we wondered why he would say that," said Peters. "When we kept calling, I couldn't get anyone, the city hall, the courthouse, and I'd been there many times. We decided to call a couple of my cabinet together and said, 'I'm going to Wilkes-Barre. I'm going to the airport.'"

Peters and the Lackawanna County commissioners helped establish a relief zone at the airport. 

Wilkes-Barre residents flocked to the site for food, water, and shelter from the rains. 

Peters used his boat to rescue residents from the rising waters. 

For the next five to 10 days, he worked alongside other Scranton residents, doctors, nurses, and everyday citizens, who volunteered their time and resources to help flood victims.

"The memory of that flood is kind of prominent," said Peters. "I can see the people coming in for help and the people coming in to help and the people coming in with food from their own cupboards and bringing it down."

Peters soon joined President Nixon to get an aerial view of the destruction in Wilkes-Barre.

"The president had sent a plane in and a helicopter, and they asked me to go join him in a helicopter," said Peters. "We flew over Wilkes-Barre. I had been to Wilkes-Barre one hundred times. There was nothing but water in the whole square up to the street lights."

After the waters receded and recovery began, Peters was awarded a plaque from Wilkes-Barre as a thank you for his response to the disaster, but he's quick to shift the credit to the generosity of his community. 

It was a thrilling experience, a sad experience to see homes destroyed, families destroyed, but I again thank the people of Scranton and this community who supported everything we did," said Peters.

Newswatch 16 This Morning will have special live coverage on June 23rd to mark the 50th anniversary of Hurricane Agnes.

Later that same day, WNEP will air a special, Agnes: 50 years later.

You can watch it at 7:30 pm on WNEP 2 and streaming on WNEP.COM, Roku, and Fire TV.

“AGNES” TICKETS ON SALE TODAY Tickets for “Agnes” go on sale today at 10 a.m. exclusively at The F.M. Kirby Center Box...

Posted by Agnes Flood Documentary Project on Monday, May 2, 2022

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