|"Emergency Ice Deflector"|
south end of barge yard
American Bridge Co., Ambridge Plant
February 29, 1936
courtesy Laughlin Memorial Library archives
In February 1936, bitterly cold temperatures caused the Ohio River to freeze over, and a gigantic, frozen-in-place "ice gorge" 15 miles long formed in the river, from the Dashields Lock at Edgeworth north to Vanport.
After several days of subzero temperatures, slowly rising temperatures at the end of the month caused the gorge to break free and the mass of ice started moving north. The ice swept away docked barges and scoured the shoreline. There were fears that if the gorge stopped moving along its journey, any ice following behind it would have no place to go but ashore, damaging or destroying anything in its path. Which may explain American Bridge's "emergency ice deflector."
Following the progress of the the huge chunk of ice floating downstream turned into quite a spectator event, viewed by approximately half a million people (The Daily Times, February 27, 1936). The large crowds caused traffic tie-ups in Rochester and Vanport. The ice gorge finally broke up at the still under construction Montgomey Dam, helped along by the Army Corps of Engineers who had "blasted" the north end of the gorge with dynamite over several days.