In the space of less than a week in mid-August 1955, hurricanes Connie and Diane blustered through southern New England as they were winding down into tropical storms. Arriving toward the end of a wetter-than-usual summer, the combined storms dropped over 20 inches of rain on the region, leaving record levels of flooding and widespread havoc in their wake.
Many Connecticut rivers, particularly the Housatonic, Naugatuck, Still, Quinebaug, Mad, and Farmington, overflowed their banks as never before; towns and cities in Litchfield and Hartford counties were particularly hard hit. The downtowns of many cities were devastated, including Winsted where the downtown was completely washed away. Property damage mounted into the tens of millions of dollars. Almost 100 people were killed, an estimated 4700 were injured, and countless others were left homeless.
Industrial damage to businesses with factories located on the rivers was considerable. The American Brass Company sustained over $15,000,000 in damage to its Waterbury, Ansonia, and Torrington plants. Southern New England Telephone Company, which served all of Connecticut, was faced with submerged equipment and thousands of downed lines. The destruction wreaked on its mills was the direct cause of the Wauregan- Quinebaug Textile Company’s demise in 1958.
The New Haven Railroad, the predominant railroad line of southern New England, was already suffering financial hardship from the effects of post-war America’s growing reliance on the automobile and airplane travel. It found itself hard-pressed to come up with the financial resources to rebuild the seventy miles of track and dozens of railroad bridges that were shattered by the storms. After the flood took out a bridge west of Putnam, the railroad ended service between Willimantic and Pomfret.
This exhibit of photographs and documents from the Connecticut Business and Railroad History collections in Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center shows the impact of the flood on the infrastructure and industry of the state and illustrates the companies’ efforts to rebuild and restore service to their customers.
May 31 – August 19, 2005