|Photo from Middletown 366 Blog,|
Published by Middlesex County Historical Society
HARTFORD, June 1— The most severe flooding along the Connecticut River in almost half a century began cresting here today as other parts of Connecticut and the metropolitan area started to dry out after four days of heavy rain.
Forecasters said the Connecticut River, the state's largest, crested at just over 31 feet - 15 feet above flood stage - at 2:30 P.M. as it coursed past the concrete dikes protecting the office towers in downtown Hartford. They said the river would slowly recede over the next few days.
More than eight inches of rain fell in many parts of Connecticut before the rainfall ended as showers Thursday afternoon.
As the Connecticut River was reaching its crest with the runoff from tributaries upstream, other rivers, such as the Housatonic in western Connecticut, began receding earlier today.
Bruce Whyte, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service's River Forecast Center in Bloomfield, just outside Hartford, said the swollen Connecticut River was expected to crest downstream by Saturday. ''I think here in Hartford the worst is behind us,'' he said. Governor Assesses Damage
Meanwhile, Gov. William A. O'Neill toured the state by helicopter and car to assess the property damage from the flooding, which forced more than 1,000 people from their homes along the Connecticut and Housatonic Rivers.
The Governor said tonight that the state was ''not out of danger,'' but that he hoped the most critical period had passed.
Mr. O'Neill said he would ask Federal officials to declare the state a disaster area to make property owners eligible for loans and other aid.
He said it would take several days to estimate the overall damage.
The Connecticut River's crest here exceeded the depth of 30.5 feet reached in the flood of August 1955, which killed 82 people in the state. It was the deepest the river had been since a crest of 35.4 feet in the flood of 1938, which killed 55 people.
This time, however, there were no reports of fatalities or serious injuries. Slow Rise of Rivers
State officials said dikes and flood control projects built after the earlier floods had minimized damage in the major urban areas. They also said that the relatively slow rise of the rivers since Monday had given people in low- lying areas time to leave.
One of the most serious problems remaining was in Middletown, a city of 39,000 people, 16 miles down the Connecticut River from Hartford. Flood waters closed portions of the major roads leading to the city.
About 30 National Guard troops assisted the Middletown police with traffic problems, but the city's main business and residential areas were on high ground. ''The priority right now is traffic control,'' said Mayor Sebastian J. Garafalo.
Wesleyan University, in Middletown, was ''high and dry so far,'' a spokesman said, but was making plans to provide transportation information to about 6,000 people expected on the campus Sunday for the university's commencement ceremonies.
The spokesman, Bobby Clark, said the commencement would be held ''rain or shine'' as scheduled.
With the Connecticut River rising to near the decks of some bridges, hopper cars loaded with gravel were parked on railroad bridges to stabilize the bridges against the onrushing water.
Sunshine and scattered clouds replaced the slow-moving storm system, which headed out to sea from New England after causing flooding from New Jersey to Massachusetts.