Dispatch from swollen Connecticut, memories of Miller debris on the front page of the New Haven Register

My mother tells me that there are lots of roads and parkway ramps closed and lots of flooding in my hometown, including my parents’ backyard, which usually becomes a saturated swamp when it rains.

But nothing yet has rivaled the West River flood of 1982:

In 1982 the Westville section of West River was heavily hit. The record indicates that this was the worst flooding problem that the area has suffered. Many persons who have occupied the area for more than 60 years were devastated at the effects that the flood left on this area. The flood was totally unexpected and New Haven was not ready to handle the task which laid before them. Many persons, especially on Blake Street had to leave their homes. Businesses, such as, the Mite Corporation, Geometric Tools Company and 500 Blake Street had to close their doors.

The people of this area had no flood insurance on their property and had to turn to the city for public assistance. The State was alloted about $2,000,000 from the Federal Government to help rebuild this section of the city. Flood money was available to individual home owners at a high interest. The people of this area was faced with a serious problem. Many could not afford to indebt themselves to replace destroyed property. The flooding problem has not been properly addressed and at this time there is no research plans to indicate that the flooding problem in this area is a priority in the city’s planning and budget.

I have contacted the Corps of engineer in Waltham Massachusetts and the Department of Environmental Protection, as well as, the Mayor of the city to seek out the plans for flood control in this area with no success. However, it is my hope by the end of the year or by the time I am ready to teach this unit, I will be able to discuss this problem with a solution to this massive problem.

Floods occur when a river is full carrying a heavy load of water that fills the channel from bank to bank. In the flood of 1982 the water eroded the land because of heavy rainfall in a very short period of time. The water had no place to empty therefore, causing a flooding of the nearby land around it.

And more:

A storm that local newspapers dubbed “the worst spring storm during the 20th century” ravaged through Connecticut, eastern New York, and central and eastern Massachusetts on June 5 through 7. The storm produced rainfall totals as high as 16 in. in Connecticut (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1982). At several places, the rainfall recorded with the storm was the highest recorded for a non-hurricane storm. This storm resembled a “northeaster” without the cold temperatures. Almost every stream in Connecticut flooded, with central Connecticut being the hardest hit. Eleven deaths and damages of $250 million were caused by the floods (Paulson and others, 1991).

How was my family affected by the flood?

I was living in Maine, working during the summer to make money for college, and had tried to pick up a friend at a Boston train station, except she was coming from Westchester and the train tracks were flooded at many points along her route and never made it.

My parents, meanwhile, couldn’t get down to Westville, where their company’s warehouse they’d hope still stood, along with their station wagon.

They learned about the fate of their property when they opened up the New Haven Register one on the morning of one of those after-the-fall days and saw, above the fold, on 2/3rds of the page, a caption underneath an image of a car stuck between a riverbank and some trees and rushing water, “Debris from storm” or something along those lines, but definitely with the word “debris.”

The debris? Their car. The warehouse? I believe it was swept away or destroyed as was everything in it (I’m counting on my mother to read this and send me the eyewitness recollection).

As a sometimes grumbling daughter who worked in that warehouse, I can’t say it wasn’t justice, but in most of my realistic, non-snarky moments, I will tell you, it was truly a devastating experience for my folks, who, by that time, had worked nearly 15 years building up their company.

We’ll have to wait and see what the current Disaster of the Week causes.

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