Remembering the Worst Flood in Connecticut History
65 years ago, on Thursday, August 18, 1955, the torrential downpours began in the city of Torrington and surrounding towns, and wouldn't let up.
From the Republican-American comes the story of the Flood of '55, the worst flood in Connecticut history. On that Thursday morning at 3 AM, the skies opened up, showing no mercy for 48 hours. Two hurricanes were the culprit. On August 13, '55, Hurricane Connie rudely attacked the East Coast. It spared Connecticut a direct hit, but we still got dumped on to the tune of six inches of rain.
Right on its tail, Hurricane Diane swept in a week later and Connecticut was in big trouble. Back to back hurricanes helped dump another 13 to 20 inches of rain on Waterbury, Thomaston, Torrington, and Winsted. At around 10 PM on the 18th, the Shepaug River overflowed its banks, and began flooding Washington Depot. At around midnight on the 19th, Winsted's main street was underwater. By 1 AM, the National Guard was called in to begin the evacuation of homes in Torrington and Naugatuck.
By 3:15 AM, Winsted streets were two feet underwater and by 4 AM, three of Waterbury's seven bridges had been swept away. By 4:30 AM, both Torrington and Waterbury had lost their electricity and gas, and by 7 AM, Thomaston lost their electricity. Connecticut Governor, Abraham Ribicoff, contacted the US Navy and Sikorsky, asking for 25 helicopters to rescue citizens from the roofs of their houses and the tops of tree branches who were clinging on for dear life.
A Sunday-Herald reporter who had flown over the devastation described it as:
A staggering toll of death in a shroud of mud.
The death toll was 87, while 668 dwellings were totally destroyed. Public property damage reached $36.8 million, which translates to $327.9 million in 2016. The lesson learned by the Flood of '55 was that Connecticut needed dams and flood walls along several rivers, which were built to the tune of $70 million.