Occoquan remembers Hurricane Agnes 50 years after bridge collapse


Occoquan officials will gather at City Hall today to remember the 50th anniversary of Hurricane Agnes.

A new work of art will be unveiled. The creation uses part of the Route 123 bridge that fell during the storm, Mayor Earnie Porta said. The commemoration begins at 11 a.m. at 458 Mill Street.

The massive storm that tore through the East Coast in 1972 killed 155 people in the United States and caused $3 billion in damage (more than $18 billion today after adjusting for inflation).

Locally, floodwaters washed out the Highway 123 bridge over the Occoquan River. Today, the bridge supports remain, and a pedestrian bridge carries visitors over the river to view a waterfall from the Fairfax County Waterside.

The storm also caused the collapse of a major bridge that carried Route 1 over the Occoquan River in Woodbridge when a barge rammed into supports built in the late 19th century.

The storm brought down so much rain that it helped crews working on Lake Anna construction in Spotsylvania and Louisa counties. In 1971, crews cleared the land for the new lake that would be used to cool a nuclear reactor.

Initially, crews predicted that the lake would fill with water over three years. However, Hurricane Agnes dropped so much rain that the lake filled in just 18 months.

“Although modest in terms of wind speed, in terms of the damage it caused, Agnes was one of the most devastating storms in history up to that time. States north of Virginia have also suffered heavy casualties until Agnes finally made it to northeast Cape Breton Island and the North Atlantic,” Porta noted in an email in June 2022.

Agnes affected residents of Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

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