The Summer of the Flood was one in which the Gilbert School Band gave a couple of evening concerts in the Band Stand located across the street from the school. I remember that the evening was a bit warm but the attendance was good. Folks sat around the park in lawn chairs and on blankets.
All most all of the band members, as few as we were, were in attendance and the evening went well until a few sprinkles began. We finished our selections and the park was evacuated quickly as the drops had become more intense. We were most concerned about our drums getting wet as we had no money for new ones. Little did we know what was in store.
After packing up and racing to the car we drove home to Norfolk by way of Main St. I seem to remember at some point hearing someone say ,"We do need rain, you know."
The rain came harder and was still coming down the next morning and for several mornings after that. The TV and radio were full of warnings about flash flooding along streams. Those concerns about flash flooding turned to tales of lives being saved and warnings that emphasized DO NOT DRIVE ON ANY ROAD unless you are an emergency vehicle.
My Dad owned the J.M.O'Connor and Bros. General Contractors Co. so town selectmen and the State Police requested his assistance for heavy machinery, operators, gravel and and anything else that could help stem the tide of the damage being done by the flood waters. I don't remember many of the conversations that went through our house both day and night as my Dad did his best to give answers and suggestions to those working around the clock.
Early one evening while the damage was still being done a knock came at our door and a tall State Policeman stood asking to speak to my Dad. It was at that time that I realized the seriousness of the situation without having seen it. I heard the man ask if my Dad had anymore equipment to help. Dad's reply was that he had one bulldozer left but he had no operator for it. Apparently the Officer asked,"Wasn't there anyone my Dad could get to work it."
Dad told him that all of his workers were already out and the only one left who knew how to operate it was my younger brother but he was only 14 years old. It took a matter of minutes for the Officer to assure my Dad that age wasn't a factor at this time. Next thing I knew was that Johnny, as we called him then, and the bulldozer were headed off to help in the massive effort to save what was left of the Winsted area.
My first view of the devastation was from my Dad's Jeep rumbling over the uprooted sidewalk along Main Street. We couldn't go far, as there was nothing to drive on but I remember the emptiness where factories spinning thread had stood only days before between stores and apartments.
After that the huge earthen dams were constructed under the supervision of the Army Corp of Engineers so this type of devastation could never again attack Winsted and all the towns along the rivers in Northwestern Connecticut.Copyright © 2015, CT Now