Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Flood

Sure it was rainy most of the day. But it was warm. Relatively. I'll take it.

It's getting to be crunch time for those of us who haven't finished getting their gifts ready. Kelly and I scooted up to Northampton to look for goods. The warm, wet weather was creating a low fog in some places, and shrouding the Holyoke Range.

It will take a lot more warm weather and rain to put a dent in all the snow that accumulated last week. Speaking of winter rain, (and this is completely off topic) I recently read something about the Great Flood of 1936, that brought devastation to the valley. Here's a brief summary of what happened:

In March of that year, heavy spring rains after a particularly long cold winter, began to break up 8 foot deep ice on the Connecticut river. The huge ice floes floating downstream became trapped at a bridge by Mount Tom, causing the river to back up and flood the Hatfield, Hadley and Northampton areas. It was pretty disastrous for all three towns. There were several stories of heroism and disaster during that flood, as many people woke up to find their houses completely surrounded. Rivers of ice streamed around and through their homes. Some brave people were lost, trying to save their stranded neighbors. After a few days, the water began to recede. But just then, even more floodwater, coming from massive amounts of melted snow and heavy rains up in New Hampshire, brought another wall of water. This one was even worse than the first. It flooded everything. Springfield, Holyoke, and other cities and towns downstream were inundated. Hartford was hit especially hard. The disaster wasn't confined to just the Connecticut River Valley. The entire northeast was hit by flooding that spring. In the end, 430,000 people were left homeless, and about 170 died. There were recriminations to follow, and plenty of blame to spread around, ala Katrina. The more things change...
But the flooding also brought on public works projects to clean up, bringing much needed jobs to the Depression era workers.

Then, just two and a half years after that, the mighty Hurricane of 1938 struck, causing more massive flooding and damage. Hmm, what was up with the weather back then? Al Gore would have had a field day.

Here's a link with some interesting photos of that flood:

And here's a link to that story:

At the foot of the Holyoke Range on Rte. 47, there is a faded, peeling sign, with several markers indicating the remarkable flood heights during those two catastrophes. Nearby, the giant sleeps.

We continued on through Hadley, into Northampton.

The rain was getting a little heavier as we approached town.

We scored a great parking space, right in front of Thornes. That's not easy to do. Northampton must have the most sought after street parking in the valley. As soon as one car backs out, another is right there to take it's place. No space sees more than 3 seconds of daylight. No wonder the meter maids are so serious about their jobs, parking spots are gold here. There is a multi-level parking garage behind, and attached to Thornes. But the lure of saving a few steps between car and destination is strong...

We checked out several stores, and picked up a couple goodies.

Going back to the car, we and the rest of the Christmas shoppers were regaled with some strong language and antics from some 'exuberant' kids hanging out on the sidewalk. Someone complained about it, and the police soon arrived, and had a little talk with them.

I'm a frequent visitor to Northampton, and I don't think I've ever seen anything that I'd describe as really 'dangerous' in this town. Day or night. Different, yes.

There have been several complaints, on local forums and newspapers, by some that feel Northampton is being allowed to go to pot. But from what I've seen tonight and at other times, the town seems very serious about keeping up appearances, and keeping the Main St. area shopper-business friendly. At the same time, it also tries to maintain the openness, diversity and alternative lifestyles that make Northampton what it is. I do see different 'elements' in town from time to time, but so far, Northampton's been able to maintain the character that makes it such a unique place.

1 comment:

Mary E.Carey said...

Great post. The flood story is great. Can you imagine huge blocks of ice careening into your house? Your photos, as always, are fantastic. Nice one of the kids hanging around.