Photo Archivist's Selection of the Month: October
The Hurricane of '38 and the
Floods of '54 and '55
The Great New England Hurricane of September 1938 lives in history
as the worst disaster for Connecticut in the 20th century. Not only was it
a major storm producing more than 100 mph winds, but it caused enormous flooding.
Prior rains on September 12 and 15 had raised the water levels, and a storm
raging September 17 through 20 added another 6 inches or more of rainfall.
Thus, when the hurricane hit on September 21, the water from the rains had
nowhere to go. Add to that the fact that there was no effective hurricane
warning system in place at the time, the combination of storm, floods, and
the lack of preparedness, was devastating.
The storm is amply
described on the Internet: The Hurricane of 1938, PBS: The
Hurricane of '38 --The American Experience, and an electronic exhibition
from the Thomas J. Dodd
Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries: "Going Beyond
the Call: Southern New England Telephone's Response to Natural Disasters
Hurricane of 1938. The Stamford Historical Society has a reference in
Record Group RG-1.02, "Stamford Fire Department
and Southend Fire Station."
Then there was Hurricane
Carol, August 31, 1954. Though a Category III storm, it was the most destructive
hurricane to strike Southern New England since the Hurricane of 1938; on September
11, Stamford barely escaped another one: Hurricane
Edna moved up the coast just to the east of Carol's path and made landfall
in Cape Cod, moving on into Maine and Southeastern Canada.
In the following year the region
was hit by two storms within less than two weeks: The
Floods of Hurricane Connie and Diane. Connie brought up to 6 inches
of rainfall on August 11 and 12, 1955 and saturated the ground. River
levels rose well above normal levels. A week later, Diane pummeled the region
for two days with rainfall up to 20 inches. Again, the Dodd Research
has a story too, The
Flood of 1955.
Researching the events on microfilm of the Stamford
Advocate, in the Ferguson Library,
was very interesting! The storms do not seem to have affected publishing the
paper at all. And the day of the storm in '38 was also a very important day
in history: Chamberlain negotiating with Hitler about Czechoslovakia! Different
from today's way of reporting, each day had basically one huge article instead
of breaking the story down. The devastations in the state and in New York
got separate and extensive coverage also.
The floods brought amateur photographers out in droves,
it seems: Nothing is more interesting than a good disaster! The Stamford Historical
Society's Photo Archive has a nice selection of photos and snapshots as a
Samplings are shown below and on Page2 and Page 3.
Page 1: The Great New England
Hurricane of September 1938
Below are the Stamford related
headlines from the paper.
The larger headline though was this on the September 22:
Chamberlain in Reich To
Try Complete Hitler Deal
September 22, 1938 (next to a
series of photos)
September 23, 1938
|George Hoyt, 70,
by Swinging Gate
Veteran Employee of Getman
and Judd Co. Victim of Yes
Housed in South End Fire
House and With Relatives—
Shippan Pt. Cut Off for Hours.
As Water Subsides
Tidal Wave Reached 14
Four and One-half Inches
above Mean Low Water
HOLES IN DYKE
Drinking Water Held Safe by
Supplies Are Checked.
excerpts from these stories and the editorials
Photos from our Collection
| The South End – corner of Crosby Street and South Street (now
Summer Street north of Hoyt Street
Bedford Street looking south towards Broad Street
|| Truck smashed by a falling tree – Main Street
|South End – corner of Manor Street & Dyke Lane
||Yale & Town Manufacturing Company – Henry Street
|no location given
Walter Wheeler Collection — there are no descriptions
with the photos,
but they speak pretty much for themselves.
back to top
| apparently, as a woman, you went to view
the wreckage still properly dressed…
Photos © Stamford Historical Society
Other Photo Archivist Selections of the Month
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