How did we survive without buzzing smartphones to warn us of coming thunderstorms? We waited for the rain to pass to run outside through the puddles! That’s just what this Brooklyn family did in September 1934, after a thirty-hour downpour left a lake outside 2403 East 13th Street, at the southeast corner of Avenue X. Their house, like others in the vicinity, dated from the 19th century. It bordered the valley of Squan Creek, a narrow tributary of Coney Island Creek that originated near Avenue W and East 11th Street and snaked its way south. Although the waterway had been largely filled in by the time this newspaper photo was taken, the unevenness of the surrounding terrain trapped storm runoff and residents alike–unless they were willing to “wade” it out.
“IT RAINED IN BROOKLYN. Brooklyn, N.Y. . . . Officially, only 1.48 inches of rain fell on Brooklyn, N.Y., during the precipitation of the past thirty hours, but, in spots, it seemed that the amount was many times that. Here is a scene on Avenue X, at East 13th Street, which gives an idea of the flood conditions faced by residents of that neighborhood.” 9-18-34.
Copyright © 2019 by Joseph Ditta (email@example.com)
P.L. Sperr, “Street Crossing Avenue Y at E. 11 St. Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, after Sunday Downpour.” (Collection of Joseph Ditta)
No, these Sheepshead Bay ladies aren’t cooling their heels in the surf. They are wading across the flooded intersection of Avenue Y and East 11th Street after a violent thunderstorm soaked the region on Sunday, July 9, 1933. The view is looking northwest (the frame house behind the tree is 2472 East 11th Street), with the ladies standing in the middle of Avenue Y, just two blocks west from where Squan Creek, a wiggly tributary of Coney Island Creek, once flowed freely through the grass. The early years of the twentieth century brought such drastic development to marshy southern Brooklyn that its newly asphalt-covered landscape could not cope with such sudden downpours. Let’s hope that in the 78 years since this photo was taken the sewers in our low-lying neighborhoods will be better equipped to drain off the rains of Hurricane Irene come Sunday.
Copyright © 2011 by Joseph Ditta (firstname.lastname@example.org)