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The Delaware River Flood of August 18th-19th 1955


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#1 weatherarchives



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Posted 06 December 2015 - 11:34 AM

What started out as a dry summer back in 1955 with hot and dry days turned into a very wet one. By mid august Hurricane Connie formed in the waters of the Atlantic and took aim at the Eastern United states. The storm started out as an open wave in the Atlantic water and quickly passed north of the lesser Antilles Islands. The storm did hit Puerto Rico rather hard with over 8 inches of rain and hurricane force winds recorded there. Then it headed for the Carolina where heavy rains and winds caused significant damage and flooding to farms and houses. Luckily the United States Weather Bureau (Now known as the national weather service) had issued hurricane warnings up and down the east coast which warned people ahead of time and prompted people to evacuate along the southeast Carolina coast. The storm then continued north before turning up the Chesapeake bay leaving flooding and destruction in it's path. Hurricane Connie was responsible for 74 deaths. 6 of them occurred in New Jersey and 6 occurred in Pennsylvania mainly in relation to the rising waters of the Delaware river.

This map with the track and rainfall amounts of the storm provided by the weather prediction center shows How much rain had fallen with hurricane Connie.


By August 15 Hurricane Connie had dissipated and left the Delaware river basin flowing at flood stage thanks to 4-8 inches of rain that fell across New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Typically in a summer tropical cyclone season we may get a tropical depression or tropical storm to make it;s way up the coast and some years a hurricane makes land fall on the east coast such as Connie did. During this particular week back in 1955 the unthinkable had happened. A wave that came off the cape Verde Islands had turned into a tropical storm. Ok so whats the big deal another tropical cyclone out in the Atlantic we see multiple storms active at the same time each year? This however was not your normal weather pattern. The weather pattern continued to be favorable for strengthening of the storm that became named Dianne. The steering currents also became favorable for it to take a track similar to the one Connie took just a few days before. 

5 days after Connie made landfall on the Carolina coast Dianne followed and made landfall on the North Carolina coast as a strong tropical storm. Earlier in the week it did get to category 2 hurricane status but as it neared the coast it weakened to a tropical storm. The track compered to Connie was slightly more inland and as it reaches Maryland it turned back northeast eventually going off the north jersey coast near New York City. When it reached the warm Atlantic waters again moisture quickly increased with the system and heavy rainfall occurred from Pennsylvania on north through New England. Given Connie just occurred a few days before The Poconos and the Delaware river were especially Hard hit sending waters level to the highest levels on record. Another 5-10 inches of rain fell across the entire Delaware River basin.
This map below provided by the weather prediction center shows the track it took and how much rain had fallen from Dianne.

Given Hurricane Connie just hit the area hard with heavy rain fall dams and streams at the North end of the Delaware river in New York and the Poconos were already filled to capacity Factor in the new rainfall from Dianne and 30 of them completely failed sending a large rush of water down the river destroying anything and everything in it's path. bridges, houses, farms. business were all a total lost in fact roughly 150 bridges were destroyed by the floods. Some of these bridges were not replaced and you can still see what is left of them today in a few places along the river near Frenchtown and Point Pleasant.

This Image below shows the damage the flood did to the Free Bridge in Easton pa that connected Easton to Phillipsburg NJ.

credit to the book Devastation on the Delaware.

Treasure Island boy scout camp which sits on the Delaware river North of Point Pleasant Pa was holding summer camp during the time of the flood like it had every year since 1913 The Island was booked solid for the week and everyone who was there for that week of camp had to evacuate. Normally there is only 1 way on and off the Island and that is by barge that takes you from the west side of the Island to the PA side of the river. However the water was rising so fast that it was impossible to safely steer the barge across the river to get everyone off the Island so the national guard had to be called in. They came in landed helicopters in the parade field which then flew everyone off the Island and then took the scouts to a local school where they were then sent home by bus back to Philadelphia. To save time the scouts were told to leave all of there gear and equipment behind which was a total loss as the flood water sweep the entire Island causing major damage. No one was injured in this case but there was a lot of rebuilding to be done in order to make the camp operational again. surely enough they did rebuild and the camp stayed operational again until the mid 2000s when more flooding devastated the Island on 2 more occasions. 2009 was the last year summer camp was held on the Island as poor attendance and the cost of up keeping the camp became to much there for the Island remains but is no longer active. A trip to The mess hall that was used on the Island will show the water level of the 1955 flood right near the entrance to the kitchen.

The following Image I have from an old Treasure Island Map shows the whole Island and also shows Marshall Island which was also owned and operated by the Boy scouts of america but was no longer holding annual summer camp at the time.

Treasure Island was not the only camp in the area where evacuations were held similar evacuations occurred at camps up and down the River at camps located near the river or on rivers and streams that flow in to the river. Not all of them were successful in one case at camp Davis in the Poconos a raging wall of water took the life of 37 campers. in total there were over 100 deaths that occurred due to the mighty flood waters just on the Delaware river alone. Across the entire northeast us over 200 people had died.

This video which was taken in Easton PA shows the rapid flow of the water as it moved down the Delaware from north to south right where the Lehigh river meets with it which is a Major reason why Easton flooded out as bad as it did.

In this photo you will see another map showing the Hardest hit areas in Hurricane Dianne and it's track.
credit to the book Devastation on the Delaware.

The following is an image of the Washington crossing Bridge being overwhelmed by water
credit to the trentonairian 

Downtown Easton pa under water
credit to lehighvalleylive.com

To this day The Delaware river flood of 1955 was the worst flood to ever occur on the river basin. Water levels as high as 43.7 feet were recorded in Easton PA which is a level that has never been seen since not even in the 2004-2006 flooding era. Farms houses business were all destroyed up and down the river. The total cost of the damage ran up into the Millions This photo of a cover of a special publication from the Pocono record back in august of 1955 shows the magnitude of the event in all it's fury.


For those who wish to learn more about the flood of 1955 I highly recommend reading the book called devastation on the Delaware which has many more picture and real stories from people who lived along the river and witness the event in front of there eyes.

#2 weatherarchives



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Posted 07 December 2015 - 10:09 PM

Another video of the flooding left by the 2 hurricanes.

#3 weatherarchives



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Posted 10 December 2015 - 07:32 PM

#4 weatherarchives



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Posted 10 December 2015 - 07:34 PM

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