Friday, September 23, 2011

Cavendish Semiquincentennial: Floods of 1936 and 1938

While the Flood of 1927 has been considered the standard by which all other floods are judged in Cavendish, few realize the damages done in 1936 and again in 1938.

In March, 1936, there was an unusual amount of snow on the ground in early March when rain and warm weather (40’s and 50’s) came March 11-12. More heavy rain came March 16-22. Cavendish received a total of 7.89 inches of rain, not counting the enormous quantity of water from the snow melt. Schools were closed, mail and milk deliveries were not possible trains stopped running, bridges were out and the roads were covered with ice and water. Local fire men and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) were responsible for saving both lives and property. Isabelle Briggs recalled looking out of her childhood home and seeing a “lake” covering the road and the lower part of Whitesville where Twenty Mile Stream flows into the Black River.

The New England Hurricane of 1938 stuck on September 21. Strong winds blew down thousands of trees while heavy rain caused flooding again in the river valleys. In some areas, the flooding was as bad as in the Floods of 1927 and 1936. It was second to the Flood of 1927 in its total devastating impact throughout the state. For Cavendish, the wind damage caused the most destruction. Fallen trees blocked nearly every road the next day.

The disasters of the Flood of 1936 and the Hurricane of 38 at least gave work for road crews and Works Progress Administration (WPA) men in clean-up and road repair. The federal and state governments paid for most of this rather than the town. Logging the trees felled by the hurricane provided jobs as well. From “Chubb Hill Farm and Cavendish Vermont,” By Barbara B. Kingsbury.

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