The Connecticut Floods of 1955: A Fifty-Year Perspective
On November 3, 1955, the Connecticut Flood Recovery Committee's final report declared, "Connecticut was the hardest hit victim of the worst flood in the history of the eastern United States." 1 The state endured Nature's fury in two major floods, one on August 19 and the second on October 16. Both were results of torrential rains.
On August 13 Hurricane Connie dropped four to six inches of rain on Connecticut. Five days later, another hurricane, Diane, dropped an additional fourteen inches of rain in a thirty-hour period between Thursday morning and Friday noon. The floods came on the 19th. The greatest loss of life and destruction to property occurred along the Mad and Still Rivers in Winsted, the Naugatuck, the Farmington, and the Quinebaug in the Putnam-Killingly region. Governor Abraham Ribicoff personally visited the scenes of destruction. President Dwight Eisenhower declared Connecticut a disaster area. The survivors, however, hardly had time to recover when the second flood took place. From October 14 through the 16th, heavy rains once more saturated the state. Gale winds and high tides resulted in new destruction along the shore in towns such as Norwalk. Again Governor Ribicoff visited sites of destruction, and the President issued a second declaration designating Connecticut as a disaster area.2
|Part of the "Operation Noah" Disaster Map of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army, Disaster Relief Office, New England Division, Boston, Massachusetts from Final Report (May 1958).|
On March 19, 1956, Governor Ribicoff made the following statement before the United States Senate Appropriations Committee listing "what the 1955 floods cost Connecticut:"
- "91 persons dead and 12 others missing and presumed dead.
- 86,000 persons unemployed.
- More than 1,100 families left homeless.
- Another 2,300 families were at least temporarily without shelter.
- Nearly 20,000 families suffered flood damage.
- Sixty-seven of our 169 towns were affected by the floods.
- The damage to individual property, to business, to industry, and to State and municipal facilities has been estimated at almost half a billion dollars."3
The State Archives in the Connecticut State Library has photographs for the 1955 floods in Picture Group 160, Floods and Hurricanes in Connecticut, Boxes 4 and 5; Record Group 005, Records of Governor John Dempsey, Boxes A-497 and A-497B; and Record Group 069:124, The Louis S. Edman Collection. The photographs in PG 160 came from a variety of sources including the Naugatuck Daily Times, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, U. S. Coast Guard, and many unidentified photographers. The photographs in Governor Dempsey's records came from the New Haven Railroad Company.4 Louis Edman was a public relations photographer and local columnist for newspapers in eastern Connecticut. His primary client was Congressman William St. Onge of the Second District. In the early 1950's, he was a member of Putnam's local Zoning Board and in 1955, the year of the flood, he was a member of the City Council. On August 19, he photographed the flood in Putnam from the air.
Researchers should also consult gubernatorial records of Governor Abraham Ribicoff in Record Group 005, boxes 682-686.
All photos in the galleries are from PG 160, Floods and Hurricanes in Connecticut unless otherwise noted with an image.
1 Report of the Connecticut Flood Recovery Committee to Governor Abraham Ribicoff (November 3, 1955), page 1.
Compiled by Mark Jones, State Archivist.