On the morning of Aug. 18, 1955, Waterbury wakes up to pouring rain, but hardly anyone notices.
What has their attention on this soggy Thursday morning is the "Today Show," hosted by Dave Garroway, which is being aired live from the Elton Hotel downtown.
Rosalind Russell has come home for the world premiere of her new movie "The Girl Rush," and her return is being treated as a grand occasion.
Throughout the day there are events honoring Russell, all of which lead up to the showing of her new film at what has been renamed The Rosalind Russell State Theater.
Despite the rain, an estimated 10,000 residents line the streets to get a glimpse of the glamorous Russell and her co-star, Gloria DeHaven. As the stars exit their limousines, powerful Hollywood searchlights shine into the low-hanging night sky.
It is truly a magical evening.
Shortly after midnight, however, Waterbury goes from bursting with pride to simply bursting.
At 12:30 a.m., police start getting calls about minor flooding.
At 1:30 a.m., a street foreman reports that storm-sewer manhole covers are popping all over town.
At 2 a.m., the Naugatuck River goes over its banks upstream in the Waterville section of the city, and a little while later police report that water is covering the road and rising fast near the intersection of Bank and North Riverside streets.
At 2:45 a.m., patrol officers are frantically banging on doors in the North Riverside Street area and advising people to evacuate.
The current running in the streets is not strong at first, but as the water comes up it steadily accelerates. The floating debris quickly goes from being a nuisance to being a danger.
Then, all hell breaks loose.
In a flash, the depth and ferocity of the water increase dramatically.
People in the clustered tenements along the river side of the street who did not get out at first warning are now trapped, and there are a lot of them.
The floodwaters chase many from the first floor, to the second floor, to the third and then the roof. At its height, the narrowly channeled maelstrom will be estimated to have reached 35 feet in places, and to be moving at 50 mph.
The first official death is a 2-year-old girl, Donna Arroyo, who drops into the caldron along with two firefighters when the ladder they are using as a bridge gives way.
Witnesses gasp in horror. It will not be the last time.
The current begins moving large apartment houses off their foundations and drawing them out into the teeth of the turbulence, where they are either consumed or dashed to pieces.