Flood of 1955

The Flood of 1955 was one of the worst disasters in Connecticut's history.

It happened on Aug. 19, 1955, after rain from two back-to-back hurricanes saturated the land and several river valleys in the state.

The hardest hit areas were the Mad and Still Rivers in Winsted, the Naugatuck River, the Farmington River and the Quinebaug River.

This site is dedicated to the stories and events in the lower Naugatuck River -- a close-knit community that holds the memories of the flood close.

These stories have been told first hand in the community for the last 57 years. This site seeks to digitize some of those memories for future generations to learn from.

Click on the dots on the map at left to browse some stories of the flood.

Statewide and local data on the flood and its costs is found in the "Data" section of this site. And you can contribute your own pictures and stories by clicking on the "Share" tab.

Maple Street Bridge Destroyed

The Maple Street Bridge spans the Naugatuck River at the northern end of Main Street in Ansonia.

As debris hit the bridge, Peter Waniga drove across several times, trying to help residents on the west side get to safety at the Ansonia Amory.

In this video, Valley residents recall watching the bridge -- along with Waniga's Ford station wagon -- get swept away.

Workers Stranded In Derby

Richard Benham worked at the Charlton Press on Division Street in Derby on Aug. 19, 1955.

Here, he recalls the day of the flood, when workers became stranded in the building as the waters rushed over the normally dry land.

Some workers who had escaped safely tried to save others by floating a row boat, attached to a rope, toward the building.

The effort didn't work out the way they had hoped.

Vartelas Block Crumbled

Vartelas Block, a large building along the Naugatuck River in Ansonia, housed eight families and several shops.

As the water flowed into the Vartelas Block, a piece of debris hit the building with force. Witnesses later said that the structure “shuddered” before crumbling.

Here, owner Ted Vartelas talks about how the flood destroyed his family's building.

Main Street Ansonia Under Water

Main Street in Ansonia was inundated with water, as the Naugatuck River levels rose. Every storefront was destroyed. Workers tied ropes to buildings to help pull trapped people to safety.

In this radio dispatch, WAVZ disk jockey Tiny Markle describes the scene in Ansonia, after the flood waters receded.

Photos courtesty of the Seymour Historical Society, and the Evening Sentinel.

Destruction in Downtown Seymour

Downtown Seymour was hit particularly hard, as the raging waters of the Naugatuck River wiped out two city blocks, and everything in its path.

In this radio dispatch, WAVZ news editor George Phillips describes what he sees in Seymour, after flood waters subside on August 19, 1955.

Photos courtesy of Carl McCluskey and Flo Cormack.

Church Left Standing Amid Debris

Frank Haines can recall watching as water poured into his church at the corner of Broad Street and Derby Avenue in Seymour.

The entire block was destroyed by the flood waters -- an entire library was leveled into a pile of bricks and wet books. Homes on the block were toppled. The road became mud.

And yet, the First Congregational Church of Seymour remained standing.

Ansonia Businesses Hit Hard

Charles Seccombe recalls working on Main Street in downtown Ansonia the day of the flood.

His family's shop was on the opposite side of Main Street from the Naugatuck River, and they never expected to get water in their building. So Seccombe started his day helping out other shop owners bring merchandise up from their basements.

By late morning, he realized his store would get hit too.

A Radio Dispatch

George Phillips, the news editor for WAVZ radio, talks to Derby Police Chief Frank Manion in this recorded telephone conversation.

The broadcast became part of the station's audio documentary on the flood, called "Flood of '55."

In this clip, Derby's chief talks about the problems the flood has caused in his town.

Photos in video are courtesy of Joseph Brady, Richard Talberg, and the Evening Sentinel.

'Water in the Streets of Ansonia'

In this radio dispatch, WAVZ news editor George Phillips interviews an unidentified Ansonia police officer about conditions in Ansonia.

The officer describes how a bridge went into the water, and how city residents have seen several houses float down the river, along with other debris.

Photos in the slideshow are from the Seymour Historical Society.

Two Die In Seymour

Two women died in Seymour, after flood waters swept away the apartment building they were in.

Here, Audrey Andrews recalls seeing the house get swept down the Naugatuck River.

The women were identified by the Hartford Courant as Anila Krupa Fliss, 69, and her neighbor Josephine Cripps, 69.

The Courant's account lists 87 people in the state of Connecticut killed during the floods. Click here to view their stories.