By early afternoon on Aug. 19, 1955, the rain has stopped, the clouds have parted, and the sun is shining on Friday.
Ed Durant, who has been sitting naked in a tree amid the roiling brown waters of the flooded Farmington River for several hours, welcomes the warmth. Al Leone never notices it.
Leone is too busy fighting for his life in the treacherous floodwaters, which are choked with all manner of debris from jagged pieces of lumber, to logs, to furniture, to dead animals. At one point, he finds himself face to face with a hissing gas tank. At least it's not a snake; Leone hates snakes.
Out of nowhere, Leone experiences an incredible bit of luck when he comes upon an inflated automobile tire tube. He grabs it and hangs on for dear life.
After struggling in the turbulent water for several miles, Leone finally manages to get to shore near Garden Street in Farmington. He is battered, bruised and exhausted, barely able to drag himself out of the water. He is taken to the nearby firehouse where, distraught, he tells his story, believing that those he left to go for help - Yolanda Bartolomeo, her brother, Joseph, and Durant - may all be dead.
As it turns out, Durant has been rescued by a boat, and Joseph picked up by a helicopter. Only Yolanda is unaccounted for.
Leone goes up in a helicopter. They search for hours but can find no signs of Yolanda. Everyone is sure she has been lost.
Night falls, and Leone is taken home, where he tosses and turns all night with second thoughts and guilt.
Early Saturday morning, he and Durant hitch a ride to Farmington High School, where they find the Bartolomeo family. There has been no news, and the assumption remains that 5-year-old Yolanda could not possibly have survived the night in the tree alone.
Given his luck at finding the inner tube, Leone is beating himself up even more now, thinking he should have taken her with him into the water.
Meanwhile, three men who have been out in a canoe since dawn searching for survivors come upon a scene that both shocks and delights them. There, at the base of the tree in which she had been left, is Yolanda.
After clinging to the tree all night long, she had untied herself and climbed down when the water receded. Tiny, her dog, had jumped into the water during the night.
As her rescuers approach, Yolanda informs them:
"I'm a big girl."
Back at the high school a police radio crackles. Yolanda is alive. For one of the few times since the flooding began, the tears are of joy.
The floodwaters retreated almost as quickly as they had attacked, and streams, brooks and normally docile rivers returned to being such.
The rainfall totals were astonishing: Torrington had a state record of 14.25 inches; Winsted, 13 inches; Windsor Locks, 13.97 inches; and Hartford, 12.12 inches. Westfield, Mass., received 19.76 inches from the storm, including 18.15 inches in 24 hours.
Trying to put the rainfall into perspective, a Hartford Times reporter figured out that 14 inches of rain comes out to just over 1 million tons - or 243,299,840 gallons - of water per square mile.
The highest concentrations of death and destruction were in Waterbury and Unionville.
Of the 29 people killed in Waterbury, 27 were from North Riverside Street, where 17 homes were lost.
River Glen in Unionville had 38 homes scrubbed from the landscape, and five heavily damaged. Twelve of the town's 13 deaths came from this neighborhood.
One of the last deaths to be associated with the storm happened on Saturday, when a small boy from Canton, David Murray, was killed by the blade of a helicopter that had lost power while taking off and crashed back to the ground.
The death toll statewide was 87, but not all the victims were found.
In the days after the flood, Farmington police Officer Bill Davis insisted on working with those removing debris in the hopes of recovering the remains of his three children, who had vanished in the waters that ravaged River Glen. They were never found.
Nor was the body of Joseph Morin, the UConn student who along with police Officer Charles Yodkins died trying to rescue the Frey family.
In Waterbury, they retrieved the bodies of all five members of the Bergin family, whose house had been washed away.
They also found the body of 9-month-old Jimmy Krohner, who had been torn from his mother's embrace in New Hartford's Satan's Kingdom. He was discovered hanging by his diaper from a barbed-wire fence. There was not a scratch on him.
In the lower Naugatuck Valley, funeral directors had to sort out and rebury the estimated 50 bodies and skeletons whose coffins had been washed through the streets after the floodwaters undermined a cemetery.
Curfews were imposed in many towns, and martial law declared. As soon as the water level went down, the looters came out, and in Waterbury alone, 30 were arrested.
In the hardest-hit areas, there was no water, no electricity, no phone service and no place to buy food for several days.
Schools, churches and community halls were turned into emergency shelters.
Food was airlifted in, and huge tanker trucks visited neighborhoods where residents would fill bottles and pots with fresh water.
In some places, mothers built outdoor fires to heat water for baby formula.
In hospitals without power, patients had to be carried between floors, and dry ice was required to keep the blood supply from spoiling.
In one Waterbury neighborhood, food intended for victims ran short because sightseers were eating it.
People trying to move around had difficulty because so many bridges were out. The state, alone, counted 33 lost bridges. In Waterbury, only two bridges over the Naugatuck River were operational.
To reconnect the state, Army engineers brought in pre-constructed Bailey bridges, which had been intended for use in the invasion of Germany. A team of 40 men could put up a 120-foot, one-way span in six to 10 hours.
There were widespread health concerns, and 13 towns in the Naugatuck Valley region, along with Putnam, were declared health hazards.
All Waterbury residents were required to get typhoid shots, and the city's health director forbade funerals or wakes for flood victims, although graveside services were allowed.
The Torrington Fire Department washed the streets with disinfectant, and homeowners in flooded areas exhausted the supply of chlorinated lime, which was used to disinfect basements.
President Eisenhower visited Connecticut on Aug. 22, and promised the federal government would do all it could, which wasn't much (about $9 million).
Eisenhower also urged citizens to donate to victims' funds, and people throughout the country and beyond responded. The Red Cross spent $11 million in Connecticut, assisting 7,506 families.
The total damage from the flooding was estimated at $350 million to $400 million.
Most homes were not covered by flood insurance, although homeowners' policies did cover the loss of contents.
Automobiles were covered, but the Connecticut Motor Club advised car owners to settle claims and forget about cars caught under water because silt in the engine could not be remedied.
According to a report prepared by the state, 507 industrial facilities, 1,436 commercial establishments and 922 farms were damaged to varying degrees.
In addition, 668 dwellings were destroyed, 2,460 had major damage and 5,213 had minor damage.
Thousands found themselves temporarily out of work and forced to apply for unemployment benefits, which amounted to $35 per week plus $3 for each dependent.
Representatives of Southern states came north seeking to persuade damaged industries to move south. They were called carpetbaggers, and treated as such.
In Rocky Hill, Wethersfield, Newington, Glastonbury, Windsor and New Britain, the floodwater soaked, muddied, damaged and disrupted, but claimed no lives.
This was also the case in Bristol, where the Pequabuck River inundated the center of town and swallowed the low-lying Forestville section, but did not kill.
Even in Putnam, where the Quinebaug River cut the town in two, causing two huge factory fires and carrying barrels of exploding magnesium through the business district, there were no deaths.
There were stories to be told afterward, and everybody had one:
The fisherman who used his rod and reel to get a line to a marooned victim.
The state cop who reported seeing a house being swept along the river with smoke still coming out of its chimney.
The woman who used a broom to chase off a helicopter that was attempting to rescue her from atop a building.
The man who claimed to be pulling another out of the current when the victim's arm came off and he was swept away.
The prisoners from the Litchfield jail who found bottles of booze in a cellar they were cleaning and had quite a party before being discovered.
The contractor in Newington who was swept into a drainage pipe and carried 1,000 feet before emerging injured, but alive.
The horse named Smokey who was let loose when the flooding started and was found downstream a few days later sleeping on a factory rooftop.
The woman in Putnam who refused to get into a helicopter until then-Mayor John Dempsey wrote a note asking her to.
The armored car company that had to use fans and heat lamps to dry out more than $1 million in cash that had been stuffed into Waterbury factory workers' pay envelopes.
And then there was the joke: Seems a rescue team came upon a husband and wife sitting on a rooftop surrounded by water, where they were watching a straw hat go downstream for about 40 feet, and then come back, and then go down, and then come back.
"What's going on?" one of the rescuers asked the wife.
"Oh, that's just our neighbor, Ed," she explained. "He said he was going to mow the lawn today come hell or high water."
In October of 1956, Al Leone and Ed Durant were awarded the Carnegie Medal for heroism. It was also given to Joseph Morin and Officer Charles Yodkins, posthumously. A narrow park along Route 4 in Unionville was also named after Morin and Yodkins.
A photo of Viola Bechard clutching her baby daughter after being pulled from the Farmington River, where her other daughter, Patricia Ann, 7, drowned, became the poster for the flood victims' relief drive, and was seen all over the world.
Rosalind Russell never visited Waterbury again.Copyright © 2015, CT Now