1961: Dam Collapses, Homes Flooded

3 Hurt, No One Killed; Property Damage Heavy

Middletown, Conn. (AP)–A dam gave way at Crystal Lake before dawn today, sending a four-foot wall of water rushing intro an area of a dozen homes. No one was killed.

The water poured down a hill, swirled across a chicken farm and Millbrook Road and–a half mile from where it started–gushed into an area of small houses.

Some residents dashed through the darkness to higher ground. Others moved to second floors. Nobody was hurt seriously although three were treated for minor injuries.

Damage Heavy

Damage estimates ranged up to several hundred thousand dollars. Police Chief John Pomfret said 10 homes were damaged.

The water broke trees down, tossed boulders around like pebbles, damaged four roads, moved one car 400 yards, cracked porches and homes and moved houses from their foundations.

In its 15-minute rampage, it also gurgled into the boiler room of the Russell Manufacturing Co., forcing the plant to close.

Behind it, the water left two to three inches of debris in homes, furniture upset, flopping, dying fish–and frightened residents.

Lou Angi said his wife awakened I’m at 3:15 a.m.

“What are we going to do,” she said, watching the water swell toward their home.

“Get out of here,” he replied.

They grabbed their two daughters–aged 8 and 4–and started next door to the home of Angi’s brother-in-law, George Clegg, who lives on higher ground.

The water knocked down Mrs. Angi, who was carrying one of the girls. Angi picked them up and half-carried, half-dragged them to the other home, where they moved upstairs.

He said the water reached its crest in about 15 minutes and then began to recede.

Authorities said the base of the dam had been damaged some days ago and the Russell Co., which owns the water rights, had had divers working there for two days.

The dam is about 60 to 75 feet long and is located in Falcon Park on top of a hill in the South Farms area of town.

Miss Virginia Gilbert, who lives in the area, said she awakened suddenly during the night.

Strange Noise

“I heard a strange noise outside and it got louder and louder. I got up and looked out the window. I could see the flood water rushing down the street. It was three feet high, maybe more.

“The water flooded our first floor about two feet deep. It pushed a tree through a window and smashed the front veranda. Then another tree smashed another window.

“People in houses across the street climbed up on their roofs. I just prayed the houses wouldn’t be washed away. We were lucky, we had a second floor, but they had only one floor.”

From the Corpus Christi Times (Corpus Christi, Texas), Thursday, April 27, 1961.

 

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