Besides providing a long range plan for the channelization of Frankford Creek, the "Report on Flood Control, Frankford Creek, City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania," by the Knappen Engineering Company, 280 Madison Avenue, New York 16, N.Y. October 1947, gave an accurate synopsis of the history of the creek. Other excerpts from this report can be found at the following links:
The report includes dozens of plans and maps, some of which are referenced in the following excerpts but are not reproduced here. Original copies of the report may be found in the City Archives of Philadelphia, and the Temple University Libraries/Urban Archives. The entire report (PDF, 50mb) can be found here.
With steep narrow valleys and a drop in elevation of 400 feet from the headwaters to the mouth, it is probable that Frankford Creek was always subject to sudden flash floods. Early reports indicate this to be the case. The 1882 report of the Chief of Engineers, U. S. Army, has already been quoted with regard to damage by "the bursting of dams". The same source in 1884 mentioned that the creek was subject to sudden and violent floods. The report published in 1913 as House Document 1260, 62nd Congress, 3d Session, states that "the creek is subject to floods of considerable height at and above the head of navigation."
The History of Philadelphia's Watersheds and Sewers
Compiled by Adam Levine
Philadelphia Water Department
For this report more definite information has been pieced together from records of the Bureau of Engineering of the City of Philadelphia, from [page 19] newspaper accounts of flood damage and from high water marks and other records preserved by property owners along the creek. The earliest flood for which there is a definite date was on September 15, 1904. No flood heights have been preserved for the flood, but rainfall records indicate that perhaps it was greater than any flood of recent years. Residents along the edge of Juniata Park recall a damaging flood in 1906, probably in June, which ruined the gardens of a nursery at Fisher's Lane. Floods of sufficient importance to be mentioned in records occurred on August 9, 1916, and August 12, 1918.
The first flood for which we
have found a known elevation is that of July 23, 1927. Newspaper accounts
say that it was the greatest flood in the previous ten years. From records
of flood heights, it has been determined that the 1927 flood was exceeded
at least 10 times in the subsequent 20 year period, indicating an abrupt
increase in flood frequency in recent years.
[Links are to jpeg files of newspaper articles]
the above-listed flood occurrences indicates that discharges of various
3,000 cubic feet per second: 1 time a year
The dates mentioned in the preceding
paragraphs [page 21] indicate that the greatest floods on Frankford Creek
have not occurred in the spring and fall as on large rivers like the Delaware,
but have occurred in the summer months as a result of intense thunderstorms
or so-called cloudbursts. Thunderstorms are generally localized and may
cover an area only a few miles in length and breadth. For example, summer
floods have occurred on Frankford Creek when little or no rainfall was recorded
in downtown Philadelphia. Local storms that moved across the drainage area
in a direction from northwest to southeast appear to have caused the most
severe floods. Some of the floods have been caused by general rains brought
in by intense tropical storms or hurricanes. These latter storms occur in
the summer or early fall. The present development of the Frankford Creek
drainage area has undoubtedly changed the characteristics of the floods.
Observations in the field and theoretical studies indicate that in time
of flood the creek rises very rapidly, possibly 10 feet in an hour, and
that it reaches an initial peak in one to two hours. This type of flash
flooding is caused by the runoff from about 15 square miles of sewered area
above Juniata. Park. The flood runoff from the remaining drainage area in
Montgomery County is slower and causes a second and lower peak about 3 hours
later than the first peak.
tides or a combination of high tides and flood flows in the Delaware River
have several times caused flooding in the lower reaches of Frankford Creek
below Orthodox Street. A combination of high tides and runoff from Frankford
Creek have caused flooding between Orthodox Street and Frankford Avenue.