The Story of HURRICANE AGNES (June '72)
Hurricane Agnes' five-day ravage of the Mid-Atlantic coast in 1972 made the storm the costliest natural disaster in the United States at that time. Damage totaled approximately $3.1 billion and there were 119 deaths from Florida to New York. The damage total adjusted to 1997 dollars would exceed $10 billion.
Agnes began as a Tropical Disturbance off the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on June 14, 1972. As the disturbance moved northward across the Gulf of Mexico the following two days, Agnes strengthened into a Tropical Storm.
By June 19, Agnes was a Category 1 hurricane and made her initial landfall along the Florida panhandle. The storm then moved through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina parallel to the Atlantic coast, causing record rainfalls and severe flooding. Agnes weakened to Tropical Depression status over the Carolinas.
On June 21, Agnes moved back over the Atlantic off the North Carolina coast and restrengthened to a Tropical Storm over the warm waters as it reached the Virginia coast.
Agnes was the most devastating natural disaster to hit Washington DC's Potomac River and the Chesapeake area in modern times. The three-day deluge of rain dumped more than 6 inches into waterways causing flooding throughout the Mid-Atlantic states.
On June 22, Agnes moved north, weakening to extratropical strength as it passed just west of New York City. It then recurved to the west across New York state and moved into north-central Pennsylvania.
Agnes became nearly stationary over Pennsylvania by the morning of June 23.
Pennsylvania was the hardest hit state with $2.1 billion in damages and 50 deaths. The damage was so extreme, President Richard Nixon declared the entire state a disaster area.
The remnants of Agnes joined a low-pressure system that slowly drifted northeastward from Pennsylvania into New York. Central Pennsylvania rainfall for the four-day period from June 20 to June 24 ranged from 8 to 10 inches, with isolated amounts as high as 18 inches. Later that year, "Agnes" was retired from the Atlantic's list of storm names.