The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

January 26, 2014

January 1959: When Sharon became a city of ice

55 years ago, the valley flooded (again). But this time came with an arctic blast



Sharon Junior High School, now the Shenango Campus of Penn State University, and the old South Water Elementary School dismissed students early when water began backing up in toilets. Both schools had suffered extensive damage in earlier floods.

Junior high classes had to be moved to the senior high school, and the schools operated on split sessions.

But the worst was yet to come.

After floodwaters had inundated most of Wheatland and downtown Sharon, the higher temperatures gave way to a frigid wave that plummeted the mercury to the zero mark. Downtown Sharon became a solid mass of ice, several feet deep in some locations.

The ice added to the mounting damage, causing more damage than the swirling waters had. It pushed unyieldingly against walls, windows, doors and foundations. It obscured streets, sidewalks and parking lots. It poked its icy fingers into homes and stores in the low-lying areas.

It took a giant job with bulldozers to to remove large chunks of ice from the streets.

Even after the thaw, the ice that had crusted on parking meters in some of the city’s parking lots remained for awhile, giving an eerie appearace.

The social and sports life of the valley was not curtailed. The Shenango Valley Junior Woman’s Club went ahead with its scheduled “Follies” despite a few hairy moments in locating their props for the show.

Sharon and Farrell Section 3 basketball esaped without a cancellation with the Steelers making headway in the WPIAL race enroute to another state championship.

The damage estimate from the flood, the freeze and the thaw was set in excess of $6 million and probably was the biggest selling point to Congress for funds to build the Shenango Dam. The project had been pushed for years by late Sharpsville Burgess George Mahaney as a necessity to preserve the Shenango Valley.

U.S. Rep. Carroll D. Kearns, Farrell, introduced legislation in Congress for construction funds and the dam became a reality several years later.

The look into the past is nostalgic, but such events as the frozen flood and the problems it created are sometimes best forgotten.

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