THE FLOODS OF HURRICANE CONNIE AND DIANE



Image of Winsted, CT after the flood resulting from Hurricanes Connie and Diane of August 1955.

Winsted, Connecticut after the flood

In little over a week, two hurricanes passed by Southern New England in August 1955 producing major flooding over much of the region. Hurricane Connie produced generally 4-6 inches of rainfall over southern New England on August 11 and 12. The result of this was to saturate the ground and bring river and reservoir levels to above normal levels.

Hurricane Diane came a week later and dealt a massive punch to New England. Rainfall totals from Diane ranged up to nearly 20 inches over a two day period. The headwaters of the Farmington River in Connecticut recorded 18 inches in a 24-hour period. Both of these accumulations exceeded records for New England. The same is true of much of the flooding that resulted from these massive rainfall amounts.

Image of the paths Hurricanes Connie and Diane took across the Eastern U.S. Coast in 1955.Path of Hurricanes Connie and Diane

With the strong intensity rainfall on saturated soil, the rise of the rivers was very rapid. Even the coastal regions of Eastern Massachusetts -- the Charles, Taunton, and Neponset Rivers -- experienced dramatic and rapid rises. On the Blackstone River, dam breaks caused significant flooding and destruction in Woonsocket RI. The entire reach of the Quinebaug River set new flow records.

In the Connecticut River valley, the most significant flows were experienced on the Chicopee, Westfield, and Farmington Rivers. However, on the mainstem, since the heaviest rainfalls did not reach far to the north and did not result in significant flows into Massachusetts, flooding, although significant, did not reach the record breaking volumes that occurred on the tributaries. In Westfield MA, the Westfield River exceeded its previous record stage by nearly 5 feet.

The Housatonic, Naugatuck, and Quinebaug Rivers also saw record or near-record flows. In New York, while the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers did not experience flooding, in southeastern New York, Rondout Creek and the Walkill River did see record breaking flooding.

While these hurricanes affected the entire Atlantic coast from North Carolina through Massachusetts, the state of Connecticut suffered the most damage. Of the 180 lives that were lost, 77 were in Connecticut. Of the 680 million dollars in property damage, over 350 million dollars occurred in Connecticut. Over 200 dams in New England suffered partial to total failure. Many of these were in the area immediately south of Worcester, in the Thames and Blackstone headwaters.

If August was not bad enough, two months later, a four day storm dumped an additional 12-14 inches of rain in southwest New England. This event was not as widespread as the August storms; however, record flood level were achieved in some locations of the Housatonic and Hudson River basins.

Image of the total rainfall produced across the Northeast U.S. by Hurricane Connie from August 11-14, 1955.

Image of the total rainfall produced across the Northeast U.S. by Hurricane Diane from August 17-20, 1955.

Image of rainfall totals across the Northeast U.S. for August 1955.

River Location Flow cfs/sq mi Stage
Quinebaug Quinebaug 49300 cfs 318 csm 19.0 ft *
Connecticut Hartford 198,000 cfs 19 csm 30.6 ft
Housatonic Gaylordsville 51,800 cfs 52 csm 18.6 ft *
Pomeraug Southbury 29,400 cfs 392 csm 21.8 ft *
Naugatuck Beacon Falls 106,000 cfs 408 csm 25.7 ft *
Charles Dover 3220 cfs 17 csm 9.2 ft *
Blackstone Woonsocket 32,900 cfs 79 csm 21.8 ft *
Westfield Westfield 70,300 cfs 141 csm 34.2 ft *
W Br Farmington New Boston 34,300 cfs 374 csm 14.1 ft *
Rondout Cr Rosendale 30,900 cfs 80.7 csm 23.9 ft
Walkill Gardiner 30,600 cfs 44 csm 19.8 ft
* represents flood of record