Chapter 4

Devastation on the Delaware: Stories and Images of the Deadly Flood of 1955

by Mary A. Shafer

Excerpt from Chapter 4:

The straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back is that Diane’s movement isn’t following Connie further west over the Alleghenies, as the Weather Bureau had predicted. Instead, she’s under the influence of the unforeseen low pressure now sitting there. The low pushes Diane’s track directly over and parallel to the Delaware Valley itself, assuring that most of her precipitation will be concentrated on the river and its tributaries.

Meteorologists have not yet amassed a long enough track record of hurricane damage data to establish what will later become common knowledge: The majority of hurricane-related deaths are caused by drowning, either in coastal storm surge or during inland flooding due to excessive rainfall. Meteorologists still believe violent winds pose the most danger, and so don’t over-emphasize flooding in their forecasts. This lack of knowledge, added to their unawareness of the approaching low, are two of the final elements setting up the scenario that will lead to Diane’s high toll in death and destruction.

Forecasters can’t react to threats they don’t know about. Without this knowledge, they can’t warn Pocono residents that most of them are sitting at the bottom of natural drainage routes, beneath what is rapidly developing into a kind of inland “perfect storm.”