` Waterbury,Connecticut Flood of 1955

Flood of 1955


It was called-Black Friday-August 19,1955

Hurricane Connie(August 11,1955) and Hurricane Diane(August 17,1955) were about a week apart and the rain proceeded to saturate the ground and the rivers in western Connecticut. It was Waterbury's worst disaster since the fire of 1902. On noon of August 20,1955 President Eisenhower declared Connecticut a major disaster area. Mayor Raymond E. Synder of Waterbury proclaimed the town in a "state of extreme emergency".


flood pictures
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flood pictures
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flood pictures
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flood pictures
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For the first 17 days of August over 6 inches of rain had fallen, before noon on the 18th another 8 inches of rain had been recorded. On August 19th at about 1:42 in the morning the river began to rise rapidly. The flood hit with such fury that as many as 500 people in the Waterbury-Naugatuck area had to be rescued by helicopter. In effect the river divided the city in two. The hardest hit areas were the Brooklyn section and the area around Riverside Street. Most of the houses in the North Riverside Sreet area being of wooden frame construction were quickly washed away. Those that remained were condemned by the Health Department. At about 8:10 the Freight Street bridge collapses leaving only two bridges spanning the river in Waterbury. It was reported that wreckage was found in Long Island Sound, which is approximately 30 miles south of Waterbury.

The river did not begin to return to its banks until 9:00 that night. Brigader General Robert Fleming,Jr, of the Army Corp of Engineers likened the destruction to what he saw when the American forces crossed the Rhine River into Germany during World War ll. The loss of life in Waterbury was 24 killed with 5 listed as missing and 115 injuried. The damage total was estimated at 150 million(in the Naugatuck River valley) including 85 buildings destroyed. Although it took a week to restore power, it was well into September before gas service was restored and municipal water was declared safe to drink.


flood pictures
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flood pictures
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flood pictures
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flood pictures
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My recollections of the great flood is very limited and I only remember a couple of things, because I was only four years old at the time. We lived in a two family house located near the bottom of Highland Avenue, which was only a couple of hundred yards from West Main Street.

"standing on West Main Street I looked down at a great mass of water. I distinctly remember the rope tied between two cars holding the crowd back."
"back home we did not have any running water. For some reason the next door neighbor had water and they streched a hose over the fence."

flood pictures
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flood pictures
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flood pictures
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flood pictures
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In Waterbury my father was baggage master for the New Haven Railroad during the flood. The pictures you see here were taken by him. Because he worked for the railroad the Police Department gave him a pass so that he could get through the Police Department and National Guard Checkpoints. On the morning August 19, 1955,it was about 6:30am,my uncle Pete left for work. My father was surprised to hear him return a few seconds later. He was yelling and screaming "you have to see this." That is how we first heard about the flood. If you would like to hear a quick sound byte of the story click to the right of the "SOUND" logo. Some of what my father remembers follows:

"on Thursday night my sister-in-law was visiting and I had to drive her home, it was rainning very heavily. In the morning Pete woke us up early yelling about the flood. I got dressed and I ran down with Pete to see. We then walked over to Riverside Street and saw houses washed away and saw the firetruck that was partialy submerged. I remember seeing the huge piles of lumber that had been pushed by the flood. There were helicopter's taking off and landing at Waterbury Hospital. A little later we realized we were out of food at the house so Pete and I went to the Fulton Market, on the corner of Chase Parkway and Highland Avenue. It was crowded because there weren't that many food stores this side of the river. We spent the rest of the day sight seeing and planning how we were to survive the next couple of days. We had no water or electricity, so we cooked outside for at least a week. Pete had a garden so we were able to get fresh vegetables. The Red Cross, Salvation Army and other groups set up clinics where we were given Typhoid shots."
sound bite
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flood pictures
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flood pictures
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flood pictures
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flood pictures
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