Pittsburgh's Golden Triangle - 1996
A Flood of Water and Ice

Fort Duquesne Boulevard under water and ice - January 1996  The River Rescue station on the Allegheny River - January 1996  The Allegheny Riverfront under water and ice - January 1996

During the second week of January 1996, Pittsburgh was hit with a snow storm of blizzard proportions. Following this huge snowfall was a winter thaw and heavy rains. The combination triggered severe flooding in the Pittsburgh area. On Friday, January 19, 1996, the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers crested within five hours of each other. At Point State Park, in downtown Pittsburgh, waters rapidly rose to 34.6 feet, over 10 feet above flood stage.

The downtown section of the Parkway was completely inundated with water. Houseboats and barges flowed freely down the river, crashing into bridges and landing on top of parked cars. Water completely covered Point State Park, as well as most of Three River Stadium's parking lot. The flood, causing millions of dollars of property damage, resulted in Pittsburgh being declared a federal disaster area.

Flooding along the riverbanks and the Point
during the Flood of January 1996.
Flooding along the riverbanks and at the Point during the Flood of January 1996.

The combination of water and ice, the temperature hovered near 0 degrees, caused severe damage to the downtown riverfront area. The area was littered with ice chunks, mud, river debris, trees, toppled light poles, cars, trucks and boats which had been loosened from their upstream moorings. Similarly, Point State Park was severely damaged. The rising water came close to reaching Stanwix Street and the Hilton Hotel.

In Point State Park, water, ice, boats and debris from the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers caused major damage to the park fountain and its operating mechanisms, several light poles, park benches, park maintenance equipment, the lawn, shrubs and trees and caused severe damage to the moat wall from old Fort Pitt and its adjacent museum.

Ice Removal on the Allegheny Riverfront - January 1996            Ice Removal on the Allegheny Riverfront - January 1996            Flooding in downtown Pittsburgh - January 1996

Once the flood waters rescinded, Pittsburgh's Department of Public Works personnel along with representatives from the state and federal governments, surveyed the extensive damage done to the city's downtown area and Point State Park. Downtown was closed for most of the following day, and by Monday all roads and bridges were opened for traffic. The property destruction done to the Park took a little more time to fix, but in a stellar effort of cooperation and hard work, the city, state and federal agencies responsible for the cleanup did a marvelous job.

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