|A view of State Street after the 1914 Valentine's Blizzard.|
Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library & Archives
As the floes moved into the river, joining masses of slowly colliding slabs of ice, destruction followed. By 7pm that evening, a 300-foot bridge in Amsterdam gave way, the same bridge that had been destroyed exactly one year before. Soon after, two private bridges in the Schenectady area fell to the unrelenting mounds of ice. First the Rexford Toll Bridge collapsed followed by the Freemans Toll Bridge. Onlookers described the ice slabs as twenty feet high and three feet thick. The piers of the Scotia Bridge were also being barraged by the ice but were still considered secure.
|Massive chunks of ice were common during the 1914 flood. This photo shows some of them on North Street. Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library & Archives Photo Collection.|
|The Stockade experienced some of the worst of the 1914 flood. This photo shows the only method of transportation that people in much of the Stockade could use, boats. Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library & Archives Photo Collection.|
At 10:30 am the General Electric whistle blew sending thousands of workers out of the plant to make their way home on flooded streets. Trolley service was cut off going into Scotia. People used rowboats to make their way through the rising water. By 11:45am flood levels had reached 23.5 feet. The area around General Electric was covered by two feet of water and four feet covered the grounds of American Locomotive. South Church Street was six feet under water and many riverfront cottages had water up to their rooflines. Between 300 and 400 homes had been evacuated.
Between 2:00 and 3:00pm the ice jam finally began to move. Water rapidly receded and by the morning of March 29th much of the water had returned to normal levels. About 30,000 people made their way to the river to watch the massive chunks of ice floating by resulting in a boon for trolley service. What followed was a mass clean up effort. Stores tried to beat the flood by moving merchandise to upper levels, but many still had flood sales in the ensuing weeks. General Electric and American Locomotive reported relatively small losses, but other business and homes were hit hard with hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
Major flooding has continued to be a worry in Schenectady over the years. Most problems seem to occur in spring although some are associated with other events, most recently, Hurricane Irene in August of 2011. Much of the Stockade was once again under water with many people forced to evacuate. Hopefully, Schenectady will never again experience a flood that compares to that of 1914.