Clean Up

In the days following the flood, Norwalk residents struggled to regain some sort of normalcy. Governor Abraham Ribicoff declared a State of Emergency and Mayor Irving C. Freese set up a Disaster Headquarters at the Columbia Taxi Company in the Main and Wall Street area. Emergency funds were quickly made available by the City, and the State appealed to President Eisenhower for federal funds. Temporary bridges were delivered and erected so that traffic could once again move on Route 1A, the only truck route between Boston and New York People in the city grow accustomed to the sound of helicopters overhead and the steady drone of emergency clean-up vehicles. At home, they shoveled mud, pumped out their basements, cooked in fireplaces, and worried about has leaks. Still in shock, those who lost everything wondered how they would survive

During these hurricanes, Norwalk experienced only minor flooding along the shore. Residents watched the five o’clock news and saw the devastation and loss of lives in towns like Farmington, Winsted and Ansonia. But it never occurred to them that it would happen here. The Norwalk River was just a little trickle compared to the upstate rivers.


“On October 17th, after the emergency period had passed, clean-up operations began. Mayor Irving Freese urged the flood victims not to delay clearing away the debris left by the flood. He supervised operations from the emergency headquarters that he had established on October 16th, near the corner of Main and Wall Streets, the heart of the flood stricken area.”

Seymour S. Weisman, Ph.D., 1958

“I always knew that Norwalk’s people were wonderful people but in this catastrophe, my confidence in them has again been confirmed. Cooperation and coordination have made it possible to move along more rapidly than expected toward helping those that have lost homes or businesses.”

Irving C. Freese, Mayor of Norwalk
October 22, 1955

“Seventeen Fire Departments came to this city during the floor emergency to give assistance. The apparatus consisted of pumpers and these were assigned to pump out business places and homes throughout the city.”

THE HOUR, Wednesday, October 19, 1955

“Cleanup, for me, began immediately and I cannot tell you how many days and weeks it took me to wash the mud off the floors and the walls with a garden hose. In total we had 14 ½ feet of water in our home; 10 feet of water rose from the basement up twelve steps to our first floor, and 4 ½ feet of water filled our first floor living area. The Salvation Army was wonderful stopping by with donuts and coffee. Though it might not seem like much to some, I considered this a big help. God bless them for being there and for being supportive. It took about four months before our home was properly cleaned and prepared for my family to move back.”

Frank J. Castangna, 2005
Lived at 24 Cross Street

“My father owned Norwalk Electric Motors – we were on Knight Street at the time, just a couple of doors up from THE HOUR. I was just a kid, but I remember that they put their press motors on hand carts and wiggled them up the street to our shop. We took them apart in the parking lot and dried them in large ovens so they could get the presses rolling again.”

Nick Melfi, 2005
Owner, Norwalk Electric Motors

“I have never been in a place where things were so well organized so soon after a disaster.”

Margaret Bourke-White, LIFE Magazine Photographer
MARK Magazine, October 22, 1955

“The press room and basement at THE HOUR were flooded out so we couldn’t publish the paper on Monday. [THE HOUR did not publish a Sunday paper at the time.] They had to pump out the water and dry out the press, so we ran the Tuesday and Wednesday paper on the Stamford Advocate press. Everything was back to normal on Thursday.”

John Riley, 2005
THE HOUR reporter 1955

“Throngs of sightseers in automobiles created traffic jams throughout the entire city area, swelled by diverted traffic from closed main arteries. Governor Ribicoff said Norwalk had one of the worst traffic jams he had ever seen.”

MARK Magazine, October 22, 1955