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Chicopee, On Emergency Basis, Hopes Worst Past

Chicopee River Lower and Connecticut Apparently at Peak- 200 Refugees Being Cared for-
Water Mains Empty for Unexplained Cause

The first hours of today saw Chicopee on an emergency basis with only slight improvement in its nearly paralyzed utilities services and with its flooded areas at a maximum. But with the Chicopee river down substantially from its high of yesterday noon and the Connecticut believed at just about its peak-hight, late emergency workers and waking city officials confidently hoped the worst has been seen.

Probably the most disappointing aspect of the beginning of the third day of general disruption was the emptiness of water mains in most parts of the city. The running water supply which gave out yesterday morning had been restored only in the Center and here only to a fraction of the normal pressure. The possibility of fire breaking out with the city's hydrants useless seemed the greatest immediate worry.

Somewhat more than 200 refugees from flooded areas in the Ferry lane and Willimansett districts were lodged in city-owned buildings in three sections of the city, many without cots of which a shipment of 200 was reported about to arrive. The cots, requisitioned a day before by the National guard, had been on the way ever since, but transportation has been impeded incredibly. Refugees were at the city infirmary, isolation hospital and Willimansett schools.

After a day of sandbagging and frantic efforts to save valuable machinery and stocks, officials of the industries along the Chicopee river and in the lowlands north of the Center contemplated losses which were as yet impossible to estimate but which seemed certain to exceed in the aggregate those of the 1936 flood.

Water Situation Curious

The water in the Fisk plant, for example, was known to be five feet higher than it was at the worst point in the disaster of 30 months ago. Notices were given Fisk employes yesterday to await announcements by press and radio before returning to work.

From the standpoint of losses through interruption of production the situation as the Fisk was viewed as particularly unfortunate, the current season with the tire company being a busy one.

Although viewed as less unfortunate in this respect, the Spalding company and Moore Drop Forging company face direct losses incurred by the floodwaters themselves.

Both were reported better prepared than in 1936, but more seriously flooded. Water in some of the Spalding buildings was more than 15 feet in depth at the peak yesterday, as the Chicopee river reached a level which eclipsed any known before.

The collapse of the Chicopee Falls bridge early yesterday morning added a complication to the water shortage situation which was followed during the day by other developments, many apparently unfavorable, and these were so clouded with contradictions as explanations were sought from power officials and from different officials within the water department itself that to serious-minded citizens the water situation was admittedly a mystery.

In the category of known accomplishments in the struggle to resume water service were listed by early evening the resumption at fractional pressure of running water in the center, accomplished by connecting a Chicopee main with a Springfield one at the city line near the Bosch plant.

Water Brought in Truck

Two other tieins with Springfield effected by hose connections between water hydrants of the two cities, were made on Rimmon avenue and Newbury street, but had little effect in the way of renewing domestic water supplies.

By and large the entire Chicopee Falls, Aldenville and Willimansett sections were without running water. At the Falls some 5000 persons received portions of water averaging about two gallons each from a sprinkler truck belonging to Springfield which made frequent trips through the Falls during the late afternoon and evening. Willimansett residents were reported as getting water in containers in small quantities from Holyoke.

The exact cause of the delay in the resumption of water service to anything near normal seemed impossible to ascertain and when questioned concerning this late last night George Webster, superintendent of the water department, said he felt it best not to take the time to clarify the problem by detailed explanations at that time.

Shortly after the time of the general felling of telephone wires by the hurricane late Wednesday afternoon it was reported that running water must fail within a matter of hours because power lines were down leading to the pumps by which water is raised from the filter beds to the storage tanks.

Then when the Chicopee Falls bridge gave way early yesterday morning the distributing main leading into part of the Falls section broke, accounting for the failure of water in those sections. This failure was followed shortly thereafter in the remaining sections of the city, and was accompanied by reports from city officials explaining that the storage tank had run dry.

Flood Closes Roads Again

According to statements by officials of the electric light department, power had been brought to the pumps and was ready for use early in the evening, yet when interviewed at 10:45 last night, Sup. Webster of the water department, said that he had not been informed to this effect. Mr. Webster did say that the resumption of water service may be slowed by presence of air in pipes and other obstacles normal in resuming service after an interruption. Mayor Anthony J. Stonina said he understood a "washout" had broken the main line of water running from the reservoir to the filter beds. Henry C. Gingras, chairman of the board of aldermen and other city officials from the Aldenville section came to the city hall inquiring why running water had not been resumed.

Highways which had been cleared and restored to motor traffic late Wednesday after the clearing of hurricane debris were in some cases closed again as the further rise in the overflowing waters of the Chicopee river took effect and flooding in Willimansett from the "tag-along" swelling of the Connecticut took effect.

Although the Skeel-street and other Willimansett dikes were reported as holding, flooding above the Boston & Albany tracks occurred in places where informed city officials could ascribe it only to the larger river, apparently by backing through the sewerage system.

Deep water in the underpass under the railroad tracks above the Willimansett "Y" made passage by automobile impossible and motorists anxious to reach Fairview, Granby, Belchertown and other communities in that section either abandoned that plan or sought extremely round-about routes. Through east-west traffic in the vicinity of Willimansett was almost nil by early evening when the Holyoke-Willimansett bridge over the Chicopee was closed to all but emergency traffic, including Red Cross workers, police and conveyors of milk and other commodities deemed immediate necessities. A number of cases were reported where Holyoke residents, "trapped" in Willimansett, made their way home by Springfield and Westfield. The Chicopee-West Springfield bridge was closed about midday when water became four-feet deep on the highway in West Springfield off that end of the bridge.

During most of the day the water under the Davitt bridge roared through without leaving any air space under the arches and persisted in tearing away at the north bank above the bridge where it tended to undermine Granby road. About 6 last night Granby road was termed unsafe and barred to all but emergency traffic and Chicopee center and Chicopee Falls were thereafter isolated to all citizens in the course of ordinary travels from the other half of the city compromising Aldenville and Fairview.

Chicopee schools will be open today in all cases where there is sufficient running water in the schools to operate the sanitaries, it was announced last night by Superintendent of Schools John J. Desmond. On this basis the question of what schools, if any, would be open today was still a problem with the water department still working to restore normal water service all over the city. Only the Center section as yet have running water, and that in less than normal volume.

Supt. Desmond said there would be a radio broadcast from Springfield shortly before 8 informing the public about the opening of schools for today's sessions.

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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There is currently no available "Beginner" label. The following is the default level label: The hurricane of 1938 was the most intense tropical storm ever to hit the northeastern United States. Six hundred people died during the storm and seventy-five thousand buildings were damaged. This article recounts the widespread damage which occurred in Chicopee, Massachusetts. As a result of flooding, two hundred area residents where left homeless. Natural disasters, such as the hurricanes of 1936 and 1938 and the severe drought which devastated the Great Plains through much of the 1930s, added another layer of hardship to the experiences of Americans living through the Great Depression.


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"Chicopee, On Emergency Basis, Hopes Worst Past" article from unknown newspaper

publisher   Unknown
date   1938
location   Chicopee, Massachusetts
width   4.5"
height   14.0"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
accession #   #L05.149

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See Also...

"Harper's Weekly Journal of Civilization" illustrations of Mill River Disaster Flood

The Town that can't be licked article published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette Bicentennial newspaper

Shelburne Falls, Mass.

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