A Brief History of Perkasie’s Floods

Perkasie Borough is divided by the Perkiomen Creek’s East Branch and like many towns with a creek, it has an extensive history of flooding.

The Perkasie Central News and the Perkasie News-Herald reported detailed weather accounts, with the Central News featuring more news in the 1930s about weather with reports from Frank Hall, Perkasie’s official “weather observer.” In later years, John A. Moyer and Jim Pritchard assumed that role in an unofficial capacity.

Bystanders rescue a vehicle in 1971 at the Savacool Mill

In August 1944, Hall spoke to the Kiwanis Club about his 38-year hobby was a weather watcher. He believed severe storms followed an 11-year pattern in Perkasie. In 1958, John A. Moyer, Frank Hall’s nephew, started reporting weather observations in the News-Herald and posted weather reports at his funeral home. Pritchard later kept a record of water levels in Lenape Park.

Another valuable account came from Jim Hackett, who grew up in South Perkasie and later moved to Sellersville. In 1988, Hackett said in the late 1920s when he lived on South Main Street in Perkasie, animals trapped in the Pleasant Spring Creek’s flood waters would crash into the covered bridge, come up on the other side, and get swept toward Sellersville.

He also reminded readers that without the flood cycle, Lake Lenape Park would not have new deposits of loam that made the parkway so green.

Here is a brief chronology of floods as reported in the Perkasie Central News and the Perkasie News-Herald from 1907 until 2021.

September 26, 1907

A severe flood hits Perkasie after a torrent flows through the Reading Railroad train tunnel into town. An 8-by-8-foot culvert dug for a National Guard encampment on Tunnel Hill diverts 2 inches of rain through the tunnel into town and then to South Perkasie. The flood destroys building material for the new Walnut Street bridge, and four-foot flood waters are reported in Sellersville.

April 20, 1920

An Easter flood hits Perkasie, clogging local drainpipes. Lightning hits the home of Central News publisher Charles Baum but neighbors extinguish the fire.

July 11, 1935

Perkasie avoids a 6-inch rain fall that devastates Allentown and the Perkiomen Creek in Montgomery County. One million trout are released from Allentown’s Trexler Hatchery.

June 18, 1936

A midnight storm drops 4.25 inches of rain in four hours in the Perkasie area. Lenape Park and the area near the Walnut Street Bridge floods out for the first time in a decade. WPA workers rescue stranded motorists on Bethlehem Pike.

August 3, 1939

Three days of rain end a drought and leads to flash floods. Most of materials for the Mood’s Covered Bridge repair project are lost, and also there was a great loss of chickens.

The 1942 Flood

June 30, 1942

A brief storm brings 5.25 inches of rain during the day, with most of the rain falling in a 90-minute period. Street and cellars flood.

August 9, 1942

The historic flood of 1942 starts when 5 inches of rain falls in a brief period. The Royal Pants factory loses 100,000 yards of cloth and its machinery after its basement floods to the top. The Perkasie Silk Mill on Ninth Street receives $10,000 in damages. Lenape Park and Constitution Avenue flood.

June 24, 1943

Perkasie gets 6.8 inches of rain, flooding the Royal Pants Factory basement in South Perkasie.

July 25, 1946

Perkasie gets 13 inches of rain during a three-day period when a storm system settles in during a summer heat wave. Seven inches of rain falls in a four-hour period. Perkasie loses electric for 30 minutes. Hardest hit is South Perkasie, which is under three feet of water. Royal Pants’ flood culvert fails, and the company loses its basement stock. The South Perkasie Hotel basement floods entirely.

November 30, 1950

A devastating storm with 5 inches of rain with gale-force winds for 12 hours causes mass destruction in the Pennridge area. Numerous Perkasie houses lose roofs. The record storm wipes out the turkey population at Bolton’s Farm in Silverdale. At the storm’s end, firefighters pumping out basements are called to the Plaza Theater fire in Perkasie.

October 17, 1954

Hurricane Hazel brings record-setting winds but not much flooding. During a power outage, thieves rob the Sellersville Theater safe of $900.

Back to Back Hurricanes in 1955

August 18-25, 1955

Hurricanes Connie and Diane clobber the Perkasie and Sellersville area. Connie stays in Perkasie for three days, breaking a 50-year-old rainfall record. Then Diane results in four feet of water covering local roads.

September 15, 1960

Perkasie sees its worst single-day flood up to that date, when Hurricane Donna arrives in town, with 5.5 inches of rain and 50 mile per hour winds. Four feet of water covers Bethlehem Pike in Sellersville. In Perkasie’s Third Ward the same scene is repeated at the new Dairy Queen and Hartman Trailers, next to the creek.

April 8, 1970

A three-inch rainstorm triggers major flooding and traps two people on Mood’s Covered Bridge.

September 15, 1971

Flooding engulfs the Covered Bridge Apartments in Perkasie after more than 9 inches of rain falls over a three-day period. The entire Lenape Park system, Constitution Avenue and Sellersville’s Bethlehem Pike are under three feet of water. Main and Walnut Streets in South Perkasie see similar flooding.

John Moyer updates his weather board

June 1972

Hurricane Agnes spares Perkasie with just 3.26 inches of rain. Hundreds of Pennridge students travel by bus to Pottstown to help in the relief effort.

March 16, 1977

A flash flood triggered by 3.5 inches of rain swamps the Delbar building and South Perkasie.

September 3, 1980

The Point Pleasant Pump project moves forward, drawing 96 million gallons of water to the Limerick nuclear plant. The Perkiomen Creek in Perkasie is part of the project. It is expected the creek will rise 3 ½ inches with the new water inflow.

July 11, 1984

Four inches of rain in a two-hour period causes flashing flooding in Lenape Park with two feet of water. The damage leads to the cancellation of Pennridge Community Day. The high-water mark was 36 inches in Sellersville.

October 2, 1985

About 9 ½ inches of rain falls on Perkasie in a 36-hour period from Hurricane Gloria. The former Wispese Factory on Ninth Street is gutted. Most of Lake Lenape is flooded but the waters quickly recede.

July 27, 1988

Perkasie get 9 ½ inches of rain in a 10-day period, resulting in flooding of Walnut Street and Lenape Park.

September 27, 1989

Perkasie escapes Hurricane Hugo but another storm delivers 5 inches of rain in a brief period, causing major flooding in Lenape Park and Callowhill Road.

October 23, 1996

After 4 ½ inches of rain, Perkasie and Sellersville flood, with the highest waters near the Walnut Street bridge in South Perkasie.

The South Perkasie bridge during the 1996 storm

September 22, 1999

Hurricane Floyd brings 7.31 inches of rain to Perkasie. There was extensive flooding in the borough, but little damage. Jim Pritchard measures water level in Lenape Park at 48 inches.

December 20, 2000

More than 4 inches of rain falls in a short period of time, leaving two feet of water in Lenape Park and closing Constitution Avenue.

June 28, 2006

A total of 8.42 inches of rain is measured over a four-day period in Perkasie by the National Weather Service, flooding the Lenape Park system and surrounding areas.

October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy brings high winds and moderate rain to Perkasie, with little flooding.

May 1, 2014

An estimated 5 inches of rain in Perkasie closes roads.

August 5, 2020

Hurricane Isaias drops 4.16 inches of rain in the area, bringing extensive flooding of major roads and South Perkasie. The Covered Bridge Apartments are evacuated by raft.

The 2020 Flood in Lenape Park

September 1, 2021

The remnants of Hurricane Ida bring 7.91 inches of rain to Perkasie in one day, leading to the worst flooding in memory. The extensive storm damages homes and businesses, floods Walnut Street and Constitution Avenue, and the Covered Bridge Apartments are evacuated by raft. The Callowhill Bridge just outside Perkasie is severely damaged.

%d bloggers like this: