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Connie and Diane
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2021-08-31

If the weather forecasters are correct, we should be in the middle of heavy rains from the remnants of Hurricane Ida.  The hurricane made landfall on Sunday in Louisiana but would have been much worse for our area if landfall was made closer to here.  This article, first published in 2005 as part of the Valley Past series, will introduce readers to two hurricanes that made landfall, six days apart, in the mid-eastern states.  Though downgraded to tropical depressions by the time they reached here, they brought damage and wreaked havoc in our region.

 

            It was in August of 1955 that Connie and Diane came to visit us.  No, they're not distant cousins or old girlfriends – they were deadly hurricanes.  Remnants of once mighty storms that still managed to deluge the northeastern United States with more than 18 inches of rain in less than a week.  Together, the one-two punch was responsible for the deaths of nearly 200 people.  One hundred and thirteen of the fatalities were in Pennsylvania.

The Perkiomen Creek overflowed its banks in Perkiomenville about 7 p.m. on

August 19, 1955.  In this photo the raging waters rise to threaten Route 29 near

Snyder Road, in Marlborough Township.  

            While the storms inflicted most of the deadly chaos in the Pocono Mountains and Delaware River regions of the Commonwealth, many local residents still remember the damage the wicked downpours did here.  Connie was first to stop by on August 12th.  Diane followed soon afterward on August 18th.

            By August our region was in the midst of a month-long drought.  Down nearly 10 inches of much needed rain, local farmers feared for their crops.  Workers building the giant Green Lane Dam could barely get enough water from a parched Perkiomen Creek to mix cement. 

            While our immediate region was spared the high winds and 18-inch deluge, we were the recipients of more than 13 inches of precipitation courtesy of the storm twins.  The duo failed to pack the punch of our flood of 1935, but there was plenty of flooding and related damage.  Water rose high above the banks of the Perkiomen, Hosensack, Macoby, West Branch, Unami, West Swamp, Deep, and Middle Creeks in our area.

Connie passed through the center of Pennsylvania, dropping more than 10-inches of rain in our immediate area in August of 1955.

Diane followed just a few days after Connie, passing directly over our region, dumping another 2-3 inches on an already badly flooded area.

 

            At Wondsidler's Grove on Trumbauersville Road in Milford Township, nine summer homes were completely flooded.  The Perkiomen Creek overflowed its banks in Perkiomenville about 7 p.m. on August 19th.  The raging waters tore up roads in the area of the Montgomery County Park.

            In Palm, residents reported the Perkiomen Creek was a half-mile wide in places.  A lower floor of the Boss Manufacturing Company on Route 29 was under water.  Down by the Perkiomen Post American Legion Home, a foot suspension bridge leading from the parking lot to the picnic grove was washed away. 

            Bally Fire Company volunteers, along with Police Chief Edwin Gehris, were called upon to rescue a family who was stranded for hours when floodwaters threatened their home.  Nearly seven feet of water flooded Leidy's Mill in Delphi.  The Kratz Mill in Schwenksville suffered the same fate.  Herculean rescue efforts were needed to save lives in areas further downstream.

The rains from Connie and Diane forced the water to rise in the Perkiomen

Creek to just four feet below the top of the Perkiomenville Bridge, flooding

both sides of the span and closing Route 29.

 

            Flood waters on the Swamp Creek, in nearby Congo, killed 185 chickens on the farm of Theodore Slaybaugh.  The Berks County resident also suffered a loss of about 4,000 feet of lumber when the raging waters swept across his land and washed it downstream.  Some of the lumber was recovered near Hickory Park. 

            Compared to our up-state neighbors, our region was lucky – others close-by were not.  Volunteers from the area responded to the call for help.  Pennsburg firefighters Charles Leister, Roy Reinhart, Willis Eschbach, and Jack Mensch responded with the company's emergency truck and portable pump to help with the recovery and cleanup procedures in New Hope, Bucks County. 

            Red Hill firefighters Lester Miller, Ernest Leister, Franklin Schwenk, George Sell, Clarence Gery, Jr., and John Shipe responded with their maxim to help at the Delaware River community as well.  

            Milford Township Fire Company sent a contingent of volunteers to Riegelsville to help with the flood cleanup there.

            Among the other local groups sending volunteers to help with the Delaware River cleanup were the Upper Perkiomen Valley Jaycees.  Donald Simmons, Vincent Schantz, Harry Frye, and Donald Fox were among the folks who helped in the humanitarian effort. 

            Before they could enter the devastated area they were required to receive typhoid inoculations.  East Greenville physician Dr. E. Eugene Cleaver donated and administered the shots.

            Local American Red Cross fundraising efforts were led with: "Let us here in the Perkiomen Valley whose homes and jobs are safe, not forget our less fortunate neighbors."

            On a more recent note it is interesting to learn that the years 1995, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2004 each appear on the list of the ten most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record since 1900.  That's six out of the last ten years!  Storm numbers ranged from 14 to 19 during that period.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted a 95% to 100% chance of an above normal hurricane season for this year.  We're already up to ten named storms for 2005.

            It seems that we're safe as long as the storm makes landfall below the Carolina coasts.  But it's only a matter of time until one of these storms crashes into the Virginia beaches and hugs the coastline to reach into our region with a devastating punch.

            Local officials and emergency service coordinators may want to review the policies that deal with severe storm and flood responses and make sure they're up to date.

The above, published in 2005 doesn't take into account the more recent storms that are still fresh in our minds.  Seemingly to add insult to our area, Hurricane Ione visited us just a few weeks after Connie and Diane and broughtalong with it more rain to our area.

 


 

 

 

 

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