'The flood of 1955 was a state-wide disaster caused by back-to-back hurricanes. Hurricane Connie hit first on August 10th saturating the ground with 9” of rain filling lakes and rivers and bringing down tree limbs. A week later Hurricane Diane stalled over Central Connecticut. Though downgraded to a tropical storm at that point, the rains were torrential adding another 14" of water and causing catastrophic damage as the Farmington River overflowed its banks.
A chilling description of the force of the flood water that surged through Unionville appeared on the front page of the August 25th issue of the Farmington Valley Herald: "Water struck the bridge at Lawton-Miner’s corner, fanning south to rip a huge gully across the back of Unionville. Six feet of madly rushing water was diverted into Main Street and Water Street, flowing down Farmington Avenue when the bridge at Plainville Avenue acted as a dam after it had become choked with trees, houses, and debris. Factories along Water Street were gutted, and New Britain Avenue swept away entirely. River Glen suffered heavily; with only several houses standing where previously had been blocks of homes. The south side of Farmington Ave., into River Glen was similarly wiped out. Officials estimate 75 to 80 homes in Unionville gone altogether, with at least 100 ruined.”
It wasn't just homes and businesses that were lost. Tragically thirteen lives were lost too. Police Officer Charles Yodkins Sr. and UConn student Joseph “Jackie” Morin were attempting to rescue Robert Frey, his wife Mildred, and their daughter Millie when their boat capsized. All were lost an unidentified male who had been in the boat. He was later thought to be Homer Valliere a neighbor of the Frey’s. The stretch of land on the south side of Farmington Avenue where twelve houses once stood became the Morin-Yodkins Memorial park in honor of the two men who lost their lives attempting to rescue others.
William Davis an auxiliary police officer who lived in River Glen was trying to evacuate his family when water came up through the basement. His three young sons (Glen, James, and Lawrence) were carried away as he tried to lift them to the roof. The second-floor tenants, Eldridge and Sarah Chadwick were on the roof and were swept away when the house collapsed.
Patricia Ann Bechard was lost when a rescue boat carrying her family capsized. The iconic image of her mother shown on this page, clutching her sister in grief, was widely circulated, even appearing in Life Magazine.
Louis John Parrot a retired railroad freight conductor who lived on New Britain Avenue was also listed among those who drowned in the flood.
For more photographs of the Flood see our Current Exhibit page. The Museum has an extensive collection of photographs, newspaper articles and other items related to the Flood of 1955. If you are doing research on the Flood and would like to access these resources, please send us an firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have photographs from the flood you would like to share or a story to tell please let us know.
Another iconic image of the flood is this photograph of Viola Bechard clutching one of her daughters just after they were rescued. Tragically another of her daughters, 6 year old, Patricia, drowned when the boat rescuing the family capsized. This photograph first appeared on the front page of the August 20, 1955 edition of the Hartford Courant