I had just graduated from Mansfield High School, and my now sister-in-law and I decided to go to the employment office in Wellsboro to register for work for the summer.
As she drove over the steel bridge west of the high school, I looked out the window at the Tioga River, to see the water was only a few feet from the underneath of the bridge. That was the first inkling I had that things were not going to turn out well that day.
When we got back to Mansfield, we went to her house, where I now live, atop Newtown Hill Road, and where my mother's car was parked safely away from flood waters.
I called my mother to tell her I was back safely and she immediately told me to get back to our house with the car as soon as possible, water levels were rising on our street, which was in the lower lying area of town on St. James Street. I thought she wanted to get in it with us kids and leave.
I did as I was told and as I turned the corner of First Street to drive the half block to my house, I saw my mother on the front porch gesturing to me to drive the car through the water, which by then was over the wheel wells. The car stalled several times as I struggled to get to the driveway. Little did I know I would have been better off staying with the car at my sister-in-law's house on Newtown Hill.
As the water rose and began entering our house, a fire policeman came to the door and ordered us out.
My brothers had spent the last hour carrying whatever they could upstairs, and my mother was refusing to leave because she hadn't heard from my dad, who was traveling in New York as a salesman.
She had no way of knowing he couldn't call because the phone lines across New York already were down. He would end up getting stranded north of the Elmira-Corning area for about a week, where water levels reached 8 feet downtown.
As we floated down our street in a motorboat, me, my three siblings, my mother and the dog, I realized the car was going to be destroyed, as I could see the water was almost up to the roof.
We spent the night at the college's Maple dormitory with the dog tied to a trash collection landing because he wasn't allowed in.
He howled and whined into the night, until I went down and got him and brought him upstairs when everyone who could object had left for the night.
I rose early and went back to our house. I had to push open the back door with a shove because debris had floated against it.
When I walked in, I noticed the smell of natural gas immediately, and saw that a kitchen chair had floated over to the stove and bumped against a burner knob, turning it on. I walked across the kitchen, turned off the stove and left.
I had hoped to retrieve my camera, which was upstairs in my room, but thought it better to get out.
As I walked into town to see what I could see, I my boots were being sucked off my feet by the thick mud that covered everything. I made it to North Main Street, where Corey Creek had washed several mobile homes from the Wells and Goodall trailer court, which now sits behind the McDonald's restaurant. The Super Duper grocery store, which had just opened, (now Sears) was heavily damaged, as were the other businesses in the plaza.
The water level had risen to 3 feet on the first floor inside our house, and our family was never able to fully recover from the damage.
As I recall, my parents did not have flood insurance and the government payment was only a few thousand dollars, not nearly enough to pay for the needed repairs to replace flooring, sheetrock, appliances and furniture that was ruined, not to mention my mother's 1965 Ford Fairlane, which never ran right again.