Connecticut Farmington River Flood of 1955 | The Nightmare That Was True
Daylight came, blurred by the wind and the rain. But the dark at the bottom of the stairs was deepening. The water was stealing steadily up. Soon the front door would be hidden. And then? I turned from the hallway.6:30. If only the boat would come!
“Here it is!” I shouted. My mother and I ran to the living room. An aluminum tank of bottled gas hissed as it floated past, a few feet below our upstairs front porch.
Then a real boat did go by—a shining new motorboat, captured by the runaway waters. We existed in a vacuum. We couldn’t talk. We tried not to think about the boat.
8:30. We heard it. Stepping through the living room door onto the front porch, I began to yell and wave frantically at the amphibious craft touring the area not a hundred yards away from us. My mother called. Her voice grew hoarse. The wind grabbed the words from our mouths as they were shouted. My throat stung, my heart pounded. We were neither seen nor heard. The wind, the rushing water, and the thick foliage of the elm-lined street silenced and obscured our presence. The rain beat down.
From our kitchen window, we had an unhampered view of the river, until now hidden by the shed, catalpa trees, and weeping willows that had stood 100 years. They were all gone. Ferocious, boiling waves raced eastward. Bits of chairs, beds, roofs, whole washing machines, hope chests charged along with the current. All the time the rain came down, a hazy curtain of water billowing with the wind.
As we stood in the old-fashioned kitchen with its towering, old, grey oil stove, and slightly sloping floor, we looked out on the river. It had been just a creek, gliding indigently through towns and valleys. Although it threaded its way right through the center of Unionville, Connecticut, it never interrupted life. Bridges tied the town together and you almost were able to ignore the river, if you chose.
Suddenly, from our kitchen watch, we saw the downstairs left wing of the house rise up, turn slightly on its side, splinter and sink away into the boiling confusion. Then there was a shudder, a wrench, and our bathroom and the annex below were gone. A doorless sill now afforded a still more panoramic view of the river.
We went into the living room on the street side of the house. A corner room, it, too, permitted a good view of the moving spectacle outside, but here the “street” water, slowed by houses and trees still standing, did not look quite so ominous. It was misleading.
Curled up tightly in a chair by the window, I stared hypnotically at the debris clinging to trees. Then terror such as I had never before known gripped me. Soundlessly, a house up the street suddenly splintered and fell away to nothing. For a second it made one last attempt to survive, seeming to clutch at its telephone wires as if they were life lines. They, too, went down.