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
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
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
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